New research from the USA suggests that memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease and dementia in older people is getting less severe.
The study, published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, was carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School. In turn, it is based on data drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).
It found a marked decline in the levels of cognitive impairment amongst people studied aged 70 and over – 3.5 percentage points between 1993 and 2002.
The researchers claim that their findings support current theories about how older people's brains should be defended against the onset of cognitive impairment.
Dr Kenneth Langa, who led the research, said: "What we may be seeing here is the accumulated effects of better education and better cardiovascular prevention among the people who were over age 70 in 2002, compared with those who were over age 70 in 1993."
The survey put about 40 per cent of the improvement down to levels of education and personal wealth amongst those studied. Levels of high school and college graduation were both considerably higher amongst older people at each end of the studied time period.
In 1993, 53 per cent of over-65s had graduated from high school and 11 per cent from college. By 2003, these figures were 72 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.
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