Cognitive Impairment Among Older Americans Decreasing

A recent study shows a downward trend in the rate of cognitive impairment among people aged 70 and older. The study was led by two University of Michigan Medical School physicians and their colleagues, and is based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national survey of older Americans funded by the National Institute on Aging and based at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"From these results, we can say that brain health among older Americans seems to have improved in the decade studied, and that education and wealth may be a big piece of the puzzle," says lead author Kenneth Langa, M.D., Ph., an associate professor of internal medicine who also holds appointments in ISR and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Between 1993 and 2002 the incidence of cognitive impairment in this age group decreased by 3.5%, or hundreds of thousands of people. The reasons for this decline are not yet known, but the authors of the survey state that older people today have had more formal education, higher economic status and better care for risk factors—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking – that can endanger their brains. Of the 11,000 people in the study, those with more formal education and personal wealth were less likely to have cognitive problems.

The study was publishe in the the online edition of the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Source: Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Feb 18, 2008, online edition.

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