Mental Disorders Like Dementia, Alzheimer's On The Decline – Why Are Rates Falling?

Dementia rates have been falling in recent times. Since the late 1970s, dementia rates have decreased by a whopping 44 percent, indicated a long-running study. Researchers believe this reversal may have to do with gradually falling rates of heart diseases owing to better awareness of fitness and diet, combined with the availability of better treatment options.

Rates of mental disorders like dementia were commonly believed to be on the verge of skyrocketing. Poor dietary choices and lack of sufficient mental health, combined with sedentary lifestyles, were common culprits for steadily deteriorating mental faculties, leading to the onset of mental degenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer's, and other such conditions.

However, a long-running study has indicated there might still be hope, proving the trend can be reversed. Moreover, the reversal isn't due to some groundbreaking new medicine but a conscious effort to keep the heart healthy. A strong cardiovascular system is being hailed as the best medicine to ward off mental diseases like dementia.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has convincingly questioned the firm belief that as we get older, we steadily lose our memories, and our thoughts increasingly get scrambled. The study contradicts the long-held believe that such a gradual decline in our cognitive abilities is unavoidable if we live long enough, reports Time.

According to the Framingham Heart Study, dementia rates had been steadily falling over the past four decades, reported USA Today. Although the study included just 5,200 people, the findings could be held valid across the nation, said co-author Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine and a senior investigator with the study. However, she cautioned that the decline in rates of dementia will not translate to an overall drop in the number of dementia cases,

"So many people are entering the age when dementia becomes a threat and life expectancy is increasing so rapidly. We don't know completely what's bringing down the rates. The good news is, we are doing something right. The bad news is we need to understand this much better if we want to effectively continue the trend."

It is promising to note that data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study showed that dementia rates decreased by 44 percent since the late 1970s and early 1980s, reported Fox News. While the majority of the drop was observed among high school graduates, the drop was almost equal for all forms of mental disorders.

"It was a collective reduction in all causes of senility that produced the significant fall," noted the researchers.

Remarkably, the study discovered that dementia, which was caused by poor cardiovascular health, declined the most. Researchers discovered that the sharpest decline in dementia was in a type called "vascular dementia." This type of dementia is caused by damage to the blood vessels that are tasked with carrying oxygen rich blood to the brain. If these vessels are damaged or have their efficiency reduced due to deposition of harmful plaque, then the brain doesn't get enough oxygen and starts deteriorating.

In modern times, a poor heart and its diseases have been commonly blamed for causing dementia. History of heart conditions, like a stroke, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation, have been known to cause mental disorders.

The study does seem to imply that over the years, there have been many breakthroughs for the heart. Moreover, better awareness of ways to keep the hearty healthy, combined with the availability of better treatments for the heart and brain, may have contributed to the falling rates of dementia. Moreover, statistically, the average age of people diagnosed with dementia increased from 80 to 85. Since relatively fewer people are now suffering from mental diseases, the rates might have appeared to be falling.

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