Thursday, February 21, 2008

U.S. dementia rates are on the decline — Memory loss isn't inevitable

U.S. dementia rates are on the decline — Memory loss isn't inevitable, Seattle Times, Feb. 21, 2008.
Older adults today appear to have significantly less risk of memory loss and dementia than a decade ago, likely because they're better-educated, wealthier and receive better health care for cardiovascular disease, according to a nationwide study co-authored by a Group Health researcher.
Good news, right there on page 1! One interesting finding is that more education appears to delay the onset of dementia. But once dementia hits, the more educated people die sooner. What that means is that you might die about the same time, but you spend a higher percentage of your life with all your marbles.

Here's a model I like:
At age 87, Adrian Lawler of West Seattle could be a poster elder for how to keep the brain and body fit. Although he's participating in a healthy-aging study at Group Health, he says he's not trying to ward off dementia intentionally. But his sharp thinking could be a benefit of his active lifestyle, he said.

The retired Boeing engineer and teacher snow skis and hikes with his dog, volunteers at the blood bank and runs a small business on the side. He "keeps a good diet" and takes preventive medication for heart disease. And other than misplacing hearing aids occasionally, he has no serious memory lapses.

In other words, he suggested, if a person has a pet to walk, a hobby that requires intellectual inquiry and a volunteer activity that helps others, "you have a better feeling and you live longer."

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