Dementia rates among people 65 years of age and older are falling, according to two recent studies. A British study published in The Lancet found that dementia rates have plunged by 25 percent during the past 20 years, from 8.3 percent to 6.2 percent, and a Danish study found that people in their 90s performed significantly better on mental tests than those born 10 years earlier who had been tested at the same age.
Both studies confirm a theory that researchers specializing in aging had suspected but didn't have the evidence to confirm — that as people became healthier and more educated, mental sharpness would improve and dementia rates would fall.
Experts found links between specific health conditions and dementia. For instance, people who controlled their blood pressure and cholesterol had a lower risk of dementia, as well as those who had more education.
Dallas Anderson of the National Institute on Aging told the New York Times that the two studies were "rigorous and are strong evidence," and Anderson expects to see the same trends in the United States.
The studies are good news amid a flurry of bad news about the rising incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Several clinical trials of drugs to treat Alzheimer's have failed, and experts have projected dementia rates to double in the next 30 years as baby boomers age.
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