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Dementia declining as life expectancy grows

Written by Diane Archer

We don’t understand the causes of most dementia, but we know that people with dementia generally lose their memory, reasoning, speech and other cognitive functions. Experts thought that as life expectancy grows longer, the incidence of dementia would grow as well. But, new research reveals that the incidence of dementia is declining as life expectancy grows. No one yet knows why.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that decades of data from the Framingham Heart Study show declines in dementia from one decade to the next since the late 70’s and up to the early 2010’s. The study results apply to people with at least a high school education living in high-income countries.

The researchers found two people in 100 with dementia in the period between the late 2000’s  and the early 2010’s–a significant decrease from 2.2 people in 100 during the period from the late 90’s into the early 2000’s.  During the period just before that, from the late 80’s to the early 90’s, the incidence of depression was at 2.8 people in 100. And in the late 70’s to early 80’s, the incidence was up at 3.6 people in 100.

Over forty years, the incidence of dementia declined 44 percent. Great news. Now we need to understand why.

Of note, new observational research suggests that there may be a link between proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec and Nexium, used to treat heartburn and GERD and dementia. But, more research needs to be undertaken to determine whether there really is a link. For now, you might talk to your doctor about whether you can stop taking PPIs. There are ways to avoid heartburn without drugs.

Click here for the signs of dementia and here for how to live well with dementia and find out about community resources for people with dementia.


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