dementia rates declining in men

Dementia Rates Dropping, Especially Among Men

The risk of developing dementia has been dropping by roughly 13 per cent a decade over the past 27 years, according to Harvard University research. Much of the decline comes from plummeting rates in men.

“Looking over three decades, the incidence rate of dementia in Europe and North America seems to be declining by around 15 percent per decade,” said Professor Albert Hofman, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “This finding is more pronounced in men than women and is likely to be driven by changes in cardiovascular risk factors and lifestyle.”

Hofman was speaking at The Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference, a forum for researchers to forge collaborations and share new research findings over two days of talks, held in March.

“We know that recent decades have seen a radical decline in smoking rates for men. While many people may have been persuaded to stop smoking due to an increased risk of cancer or heart disease, it is also a key risk factor for dementia,” he said.

if trends in management of cardiovascular disease, particularly in men, continue, we may see further declines. But if cardiovascular disease and other predisposing health conditions rise in number, this positive trend may plateau or even reverse.

“With other dementia risk factors such as obesity and diabetes on the rise, this apparent decline in dementia rates may not continue for long,” Hofman said.

A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study noted that African Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementias (13.8 percent) among people ages 65 and older. Hispanics, with 12.2 percent, and non-Hispanic whites, with 10.3 percent, have the next largest prevalence, the CDC says. American Indian and Alaska Natives have a prevalence of 9.1 percent, while Asian and Pacific Islanders, with an 8.4 percent prevalence, are the lowest.

But the CDC warns that as the population rises, so will the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D.

Men’s Health Network has a free 56-page book for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients’ caretakers that offers a toolkit that includes advice and resources. Tailored toward male caregivers, the book provides reassurance and encouragement to men suddenly cast in a role which may feel frightening.

“Many men may even find themselves in the role of the primary caregiver,” says Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, who wrote a foreword to the book. Bonhomme is the founder of the National Black Men’s Health Network.

“Anyone caring for an Alzheimer’s patient will need knowledge and skill, not only to care for the patient effectively but to care for themselves in the process of coping with this demanding affliction,” Bonhomme writes. “Thus far, men have been an underused resource for caregiving. Let’s all get ready to change that.”

Robin Mather

View posts by Robin Mather
Robin Mather is a third-generation journalist with more than 40 years' experience working at major daily newspapers and national magazines. A Michigan native, she now lives in Arizona

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