Dementia now in decline!

Good news! Recent information reveals that Dementia risk is declining.

Some encouraging news in the battle against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia: The rate at which older Americans are getting these conditions is declining. That's according to a study published Monday inJAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers say one reason for the improved outlook is an increase in education. The study used data gathered in two snapshots, one in 2000 and another in 2012, that each looked at more than 10,000 Americans who were at least 65 years old. In the first snapshot, 11.6 percent of them had some form of dementia. In the second snapshot, it was 8.8 percent. Put in more human terms, "that's well over a million people who don't have dementia, who would have had it if the rates had stayed the same as 2000 rates," says John Haaga, who directs the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study.

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Conditions, Causes and Coping

A person with Huntington's disease usually– but not always– has a genetic disorder, and not everyone with that disorder will be affected in the same way. While some with Huntington's will lose ability to move and speak, not all experience the same symptoms or develop every symptom. By strengthening our immune systems we can often avoid "worst case scenarios."

We live in a time where medical research into what causes a disease is often successful, and sometimes we can learn how to sidestep ravaging diseases.

For example, scientists have learned that pesticides are culprits in memory loss and dementia.

As we all grow older, we can do our best to avoid things that are known causes of dementia, many that we have looked at in this series. And when loved ones develop those symptoms and conditions, we can help them to cope.

Here are some thoughts on "coping":

It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools — friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty — and said "do the best you can with these, they will have to do." And mostly, against all odds, they do.
- Anne Lamott
If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
You can climb it and cross to the other side.
You can go around it.
You can dig under it.
You can fly over it.
You can blow it up.
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
You can turn around and go back the way you came.
Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.”
- Vera Nazarian

If you are helping a loved one with dementia to live well despite the downsides, we salute you.

Let us know if you liked this series on "Getting older and memory."

Could loneliness play a role in causing Alzheimer's?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

We could ask, for our study of dementia, does loneliness lead to the physical condition (Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden) that is a symptom of Alzheimer's? Or, do people with Alzheimer's grow lonely due to their decreasing ability to interact with others?

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that loneliness may be a cause as well as a result of Alzheimer's.

Loneliness is a debilitating condition. Since the majority of people with dementia are older adults, and since older adults are often isolated from society due to health issues or retirement, it stands to reason that they may deal with loneliness everyday.

The idea offered in this blog post is simple: If we know an older person who is alone a lot, let's reach out and visit. It is a simple way we can help them to be in better health.