According to a new study conducted between 2016 and 2017, one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 suffered from dementia, while 22% suffered from mild cognitive impairment, the earliest stage of the slow slide into senility.
research, which The authors said that this was the first nationally representative examination of the prevalence of cognitive impairment in more than 20 years, was able to measure the prevalence of dementia and mild cognitive impairment by age, education, ethnicity, gender and race.
The results showed that older people who identified as black or African American were more likely to have dementia, while those who identified as Hispanic were more likely to have mild cognitive impairment. People who had less than a high school diploma were more likely to have both conditions.
“Research on dementia in general has largely focused on college-educated people who are racialized as white,” study lead author Jennifer Manly said in a statement.
“This study is representative of the older adult population and includes groups that have historically been excluded from dementia research but are at higher risk of developing cognitive impairment due to structural racism and income inequality” said Manly, professor of neuropsychology at the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and Taub Institute for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University.
“If we are interested in increasing brain health equity later in life, we need to know where we are now and where to direct our resources,” Manly said.
The study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology, analyzed data from extensive neuropsychological testing and interviews with nearly 3,500 people over the age of 65 enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, a project of long-term research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration.
The research was based on a randomly selected sample of study people who completed the baseline survey and underwent neurological testing between June 2016 and October 2017.
Fifteen percent of people who identified as black tested positive for dementia, while 22 percent had mild cognitive decline, the study found. Ten percent of those identified as Hispanic had dementia, but the rate of milder issues was higher – 28% tested positive for mild cognitive impairment. Nine percent of whites had dementia, while 21 percent had mild cognitive impairment.
Academic achievement, which experts believe is protective against cognitive decline, showed a wide gap: 9% of people with college degrees tested positive for dementia, compared to 13% of those who never graduated from high school. Twenty-one percent of people over 65 with a college degree had mild cognitive decline, compared with 30 percent of those without a high school diploma.
Extremely old people had the highest rates of dementia and mild cognitive impairment. Only 3% of adults between the ages of 65 and 69 tested positive for dementia, compared to 35% of those aged 90 and over.
In fact, each A five-year increase in age was associated with a higher risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment, the report said. The study, however, found no difference between men and women in rates of either condition.
Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment may include loss of objects, forgetting to do things or go to appointments, or difficulty finding words. A loss of smell and taste and movement problems can also be symptoms, according to the National Institute on Aging.
People with mild cognitive impairment are quite capable of taking care of themselves, “but what they have to go through to do so is exhausting”, Laura Baker, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, CNN told CNN in a previous interview. She did not participate in the current study.
People with mild cognitive impairment may not remember where they’re supposed to be, Baker said. ” ‘Let me check my calendar. Oh, I forgot to write on that calendar. Let’s check another calendar. Oh, I can’t find that calendar. I lost my phone. Where is the key? I can’t find the key.’ They are able to band together at the start and get things done, but the toll is immense.
Not everyone with mild cognitive impairment develops dementia, although many do, experts say. Lifestyle changes can be a key to reversing mental decline. A 2019 study found that personalized lifestyle interventions — such as diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep hygiene — not only halted cognitive decline in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but actually increased their memory and thinking skills over 18 months. Women responded better than men, according to a follow-up study.
A February study found that about a third of women aged 75 or older with mild cognitive impairment reversed their progression to dementia at some point during follow-up. All of the women, however, had high levels of education and academic achievement and excellent written language skills, or what experts call a “cognitive reserve.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, the signs of dementia can differ from person to person and can include memory loss and confusion, difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and to write.
People with dementia may act impulsively or show poor judgment, and they may have trouble paying bills or managing money responsibly. They can repeat questions, using strange words to refer to familiar objects, and taking longer than usual to answer daily tasks.
Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood is another sign of dementia, as is losing interest in daily activities or events or acting like you don’t care about other people’s feelings. They may lose their balance or have other movement problems. Sometimes people with dementia may hallucinate or experience delusions or paranoia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the best-known cause of dementia, but cognitive problems can be caused by vascular problems that block blood flow to the brain or by mini-strokes caused by tiny blood clots traveling to the brain. Frontal lobe dementia, a rare form thought to be associated with abnormal amounts of tau and TDP-43, often begins in people under the age of 60. Another type of decline, called dementia with Lewy bodies, is thought to be caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
A person with signs of cognitive decline or dementia needs a full workup by a neurologist to determine the underlying cause, the NIH said. The side effects of a number of medications can mimic dementia, as can certain illnesses, such as Huntington’s disease.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia, continue to see doctors and specialists and consider getting a referral to a memory clinic, according to the National Institutes of Health. Contact your local Alzheimer’s research center and consider participating in a clinical trial.
The Alzheimer’s Association has detailed information about the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and offers many levels of support for patients and caregivers.
Work on staying healthy – exercise helps with mood, balance and thinking, while a balanced diet and quality sleep can improve the brain’s ability to function.