Dementia Rates Dropping

There are roughly one million people age 65 and older living in Arizona. Since dementia tends to strike people as they age…..a new study may be of particular interest here in our state.

According to research just published in JAMA Internal Medicine, dementia rates are declining among older Americans. From NBC News.

Rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia appear to have fallen considerably since 2000, and better education may be partly responsible, researchers reported Monday.

Better treatment for diabetes and cardiovascular disease may also be helping, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to a story on, researchers aren’t sure why education might protect against dementia, but they have some theories.

“One is that education might actually change the brain itself,”says Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the study.. “We think that it actually creates more, and more complicated, connections between the nerve cells so that you’re able to keep thinking normally later into life.”

Oddly, the study also showed that being overweight or obese might actually lower the risk associated with dementia. Scientific America wrote, “Carrying excess pounds generally raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease, which are thought to increase the risk of dementia, but “late-life obesity may be protective,” wrote commentary authors Ozioma C. Okonkwo and Dr. Sanjay Asthana of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. That may be especially true when people receive effective treatments for diabetes and heart disease, which also became more common with later generations.”

The infographic below, from USA Today, highlights the decline of dementia in every age group beyond 65.


However, as the New York Times points out – “Even with the lower prevalence of dementia, there will be many more older people in the United States over the next few decades, especially people age 85 and older, who are at highest risk. For that reason, the total number of people with dementia should rise, although not as much as had been estimated.”

Share your thoughts on this new research and what it might mean for Arizonans age 65 and older. Generating dialogue around the important health issues making headlines is another way we hope to drive better health in our state. And the healthier we are – the sooner we can reach our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!



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