Dementia Rates Have Dropped by Almost a Third, According to a New Report - These Healthy Habits Can Help Lower Your Risk, Too

Dementia Rates Have Dropped by Almost a Third, According to a New Report – These Healthy Habits Can Help Lower Your Risk, Too

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How often do you think about how great it is to be able to remember random items you need to add to your cart at the supermarket without a list? Or the fact that you can still sing all the lyrics from Lizzo’s debut album? Or how about memories of your last birthday, Thanksgiving, or even remembering the names of people who joined you around the table?

For a significant portion of Americans – for people with dementia – many or all of these tasks present a serious challenge. Three weeks ago, a new study estimates 1 in 10 American seniors have dementiaand a further 22% suffer from mild cognitive impairment (which can progress to full-blown dementia).

But thanks to new research published November 7, 2022 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)we may be seeing a slightly more optimistic trend in terms of collective brain health. Dementia rates have actually declined among people aged 65 and older, from 12.2% of the population in 2000 to just 8.5% in 2016.

Find out why both of these studies may be true at the same time, and explore how to stay mindful and be part of this positive, cognitively sharp trend.

Related: The #1 way to reduce dementia risk, even if you have a family history

What this new brain health report found

To reach this conclusion, the researchers drew on data from 21,000 people who participated in the Health and Retirement Study, a large national survey representative of the population conducted for 20 years. After analyzing the numbers, the researchers found that the age-adjusted prevalence of dementia among people aged 65 and over in 2000 was just over 12%. Just over 1 in 10 American seniors suffered from dementia at that time. By 2016, this rate had fallen to 8.5%, which represents a decline of 3.7 percentage points or approximately 30%.

The decline in dementia rates appears to be particularly steep between 2000 and 2004, the scientists note, and among black men. The prevalence of dementia fell by 7% among black men, compared to a 3% decrease among those who responded to the survey and indicated that they were white men.

Although the rate of dementia among participating women also decreased between 2000 and 2016, from 13.6% to just under 10%, women overall continue to have higher rates of dementia than men. men (whose rates fell from about 10% to 7%). Researchers hypothesize that this disparity may be related to how estrogen affects the brain during menopause, although more research is needed.

Higher levels of overall education and drop in smoking rates in the United States may be a factor in this collective decrease in dementia prevalence, but determining the exact cause of dementia is difficult. In most cases this is a melting pot of risk factors and can include high blood pressure, inactivitya diet low in whole foods, bad sleep and more.

So how can this study hint at an overall decrease, when this earlier study – and CDC data, which estimates that 5 million adults suffered from dementia in 2014, and predicts that this figure will increase to around 14 million by 2060 – are both true?

Because we live longer. There are more Americans living into old age than in past generations (which is great news!), which means that this portion of the elderly now makes up a larger portion of our overall American population.

How to reduce your risk of dementia

Regardless of the exact number of people with dementia or the prevalence percentage, the most important thing to take away from this story is that some of your dementia risk is within your control. Genetic factors certainly affect our brain health — and our total risk of chronic disease — but our daily habits also play a big role.

Since it is impossible to rewrite our family history and scientists are still searching for a cure for dementia, it is wise to focus on the modifiable risk factors or lifestyle habits that are within our control and which have been shown to be linked to brain health.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association risk reduction and prevention guides, here are 10 healthy strategies that can help boost your brain:

  1. Eat a nutritious, well-balanced, low-fat diet refined carbohydrates and contains enough alimentary fiber (the DASH Dietthe mediterranean diet and the SPIRIT Diet are all smart choices)

  2. manage your arterial pressure

  3. Keep an eye on your cholesterol level

  4. Aim for a stable blood sugar range

  5. Move your body

  6. Don’t smoke and talk to your doctor about help to quit smoking if you do

  7. Try to stay socially connected

  8. Limit alcohol consumption

  9. shoot for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night

  10. Challenge the brain through puzzles, games, reading, music or other hobbies

The essential

A new report on the brain health of Americans has found that the percentage of people 65 and older with dementia has dropped by about a third. However, as more Americans live longer, the total number of people living with cognitive problems is higher than in recent decades. Some groups, including those who responded to the survey as women, showed less of a decrease in rates than those who responded as men.

Regardless of your gender identity or genetics, incorporating healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk of dementia and strengthen your brain.

Next: Do you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s? Here’s how to protect your brain as you age

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