Dementia Rates Falling But Numbers of Afflicted Will Still Rise

The California Health Care Foundation reports today the results of a new study that shows that the rate at which people over the age of 65 are developing dementia has fallen almost 25 percent since 2000. But the spectacular growth of the elderly population as a whole means that the number of dementia sufferers in the U.S. will triple by 2050.

The reduction in the prevalence of dementia that the team at the University of Michigan School of Medicine found means that instead of 6 million dementia sufferers and their families at the present time, there are in fact 5 million.

Why the decrease? Better cardiac health in the population now may be one reason, because cardiac issues increase the stress on the vascular system, and vascular dementia — the result of strokes — is the second most prevalent form of dementia now, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form. Better diabetes care may also be reducing the rates of cardiac illness.

The study’s authors also found that the population with the lower rate of dementia was a higher-educated one. This finding is in line with other studies that have found higher education levels in population samples with lower levels of physical disease, including dementia.

However, the authors caution that the exact reasons for the lowered rates are likely to be complex and not restricted to one or another definitive cause.