Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dementia Down, but Docs Don't Know Why

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dementia Down, but Docs Don't Know Why

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Zorba Paster

My mom died from dementia, Alzheimer's possibly, but without an autopsy, it's hard to say. That was back in 1981 when MRIs didn't exist and CT scans were in their infancy. So I always keep up-to-date on the dementia front because I'm afraid it could happen to me or my kids.

A while ago, I wrote about the Framingham Heart Study, which seemed to show dementia rates were dropping in all but one group - high school dropouts. People in that group had the same rate of dementia in 2010 as they did in 1975. I'll chime in later about why this might be happening.

But the most recent data comes with research from the Journal of the American Medical Association's Internal Medicine publication. It shows despite the increase in obesity and the explosion of diabetes in the United States, dementia in Americans has dropped by a whopping 24 percent over the last 12 years.

That is mind-boggling.

Now, the folks at the Alzheimer's Association are not ready to say we are beating this disease and rightfully so. That's because, among other things, we don't know exactly why this drop is happening.

We know dementia when we see it, but differentiating the various types of dementia is harder than you would think. There is no blood test or scan to show if it's Alzheimer's or some other form of the disease. MRI scans can show signs of strokes, but these tests can't often tell you if those issues are responsible for changes in thinking and memory.

So while we can rejoice in the good news dementia may be declining, we don't have the foggiest idea of why we're rejoicing. At this point, it's all speculation - and this is the fun part.

We smoke less. Our air is cleaner. We rarely come into contact with lead (remember leaded gasoline?). Lots of us take medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol to fight cardiovascular disease - which, by the way, we have been wildly successful at controlling. …

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