Dementia Risk in 20-Year Decline Among Senior
Citizens as Cardiovascular Disease Decreases
Reduction of dementia risk important but number of
people with dementia will rise with the increase in life expectancy and
growing number over age 75
April 20, 2013 – A new Swedish study appears to
confirm that dementia is declining among older people: those 75 years
old and older. The report in the journal Neurology shows the risk
of the elderly developing dementia may have declined for over 20 years,
in direct conflict with most assumptions. The reason appears to be the
decrease in cardiovascular disease.
The result is based on data from SNAC-K, an ongoing study on
aging and health that started in 1987.
"We know that cardiovascular disease is an
important risk factor for dementia. The suggested decrease in dementia
risk coincides with the general reduction in cardiovascular disease over
recent decades", says Associate Professor Chengxuan Qiu of the Aging
Research Center, established by Karolinska Institute and Stockholm
"Health check-ups and cardiovascular disease
prevention have improved significantly in Sweden, and we now see results
of this improvement reflected in the risk of developing dementia."
Dementia is a constellation of symptoms
characterized by impaired memory and other mental functions. After age
75, dementia is commonly due to multiple causes, mainly Alzheimer’s
disease and vascular dementia.
In the current study, more than 3000 persons 75
years and older living in the central Stockholm neighborhood of
Kungsholmen participated. Of the participants, 523 were diagnosed with
some form of dementia.
The key members of the research group have been
essentially the same since 1987, including the neurologist responsible
for the clinical diagnoses of dementia. All study participants were
assessed by a nurse, a physician, and a psychologist.
The result shows the prevalence of dementia was
stable in both men and women across all age groups after age 75 during
the entire study period (1987-1989 and 2001-2004), despite the fact that
the survival of persons with dementia increased since the end of the
This means that the overall risk of developing
dementia must have declined during the period, possibly thanks to
prevention and better treatment of cardiovascular disease.
"The reduction of dementia risk is a positive
phenomenon, but it is important to remember that the number of people
with dementia will continue to rise along with the increase in life
expectancy and absolute numbers of people over age 75", says Professor
Laura Fratiglioni, Director of the Aging Research Center.
"This means that the societal burden of dementia
and the need for medical and social services will continue to increase.
Today there's no way to cure patients who have dementia. Instead we must
continue to improve health care and prevention in this area."
The study was funded by the Swedish Council for
Working Life and Social Research (FAS), the Swedish Ministry of Health
and Social Affairs, the Swedish Research Council, and Swedish Brain
Twenty year changes in dementia occurrence
suggest decreasing incidence in central Stockholm, Sweden
Authors Chengxuan Qiu, Eva von Strauss, Lars Bäckman, Bengt Winblad,
Published in the April 17, 2013, online issue of
Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of
Neurology, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318292a2f9
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