Study suggests reduced risk of dementia

(Medical Xpress)—A new Swedish study published in the journal Neurology shows that the risk of developing dementia may have declined over the past 20 years, in direct contrast to what many previously assumed. 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 . 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 Institutet and Stockholm University. "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 . 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 responsible for the clinical diagnoses of dementia. All 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 1980s. This means that the overall risk of developing dementia must have declined during the period, possibly thanks to prevention and better treatment of .

"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."

More information: Qiu, C. et al. Twenty year changes in dementia occurrence suggest decreasing incidence in central Stockholm, Sweden, Neurology, April 17, 2013. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318292a2f9

Related Stories

Diabetes may significantly increase your risk of dementia

Sep 19, 2011

People with diabetes appear to be at a significantly increased risk of developing dementia, according to a study published in the September 20, 2011, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neu ...

Packing on the pounds in middle age linked to dementia

May 02, 2011

According to a new study, being overweight or obese during middle age may increase the risk of certain dementias. The research is published in the May 3, 2011, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academ ...

Having a parent with dementia may affect memory in midlife

Feb 18, 2009

People who have parents diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia may be more likely to have memory loss themselves in middle age, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of ...

Look after your brain

Feb 20, 2011

As the average life span becomes longer, dementia becomes more common. Swedish scientist Laura Fratiglioni has shown that everyone can minimize his or her risk of being affected. Factors from blood pressure and weight to ...

Researchers find parental dementia may lead

Feb 19, 2009

People who have parents diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia perform less well on formal memory testing when compared to people of the same age whose parents never developed Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. ...

Recommended for you

Surprising new role for calcium in sensing pain

17 hours ago

When you accidentally touch a hot oven, you rapidly pull your hand away. Although scientists know the basic neural circuits involved in sensing and responding to such painful stimuli, they are still sorting ...

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations

Sep 01, 2014

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations, previously believed that only the brain could perform. This is according to a study from Umeå University in Sweden published in the journal Nature Ne ...

User comments