Why Alzheimer's Rates are Rising

Changes in Lifestyle Believed to be a Major Factor

 

A recent study revealed that occurrences of Alzheimer’s and dementia have significantly increased among baby boomers, when compared to earlier generations.

Previous findings have shown that cognitive ability has improved from generation to generation, beginning with “the greatest generation” (born from 1890-1923) and peaking among “war babies” (born 1942-1947).

The study showed that the trend of improving cognitive ability abruptly reverses, beginning with baby boomers (born 1948-1953) and worsening with mid baby boomers (born 1954-1959). Both generations showed higher rates of Alzheimer's disease and dementia than earlier generations. While there were not enough participants born after 1960, experts believe that this worsening of cognitive ability will become even more significant in future generations.

“It is shocking to see this decline in cognitive functioning among baby boomers after generations of increases in test scores,” author Hui Zheng said.

“But what was most surprising to me is that this decline is seen in all groups: men and women, across all races and ethnicities and across all education, income and wealth levels.”

The study did not attribute these findings to a specific cause, but hypothesized it could be due to the higher rate cardiovascular risk factors (e.g., obesity, physical inactivity, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease).

Changes in diet are a likely explanation. In the beginning of the 1950s (the beginning of the baby boomer generation) Americans began consuming diets higher in fat, sodium, and cholesterol than earlier generations.

These diets are not only directly harmful to the brain, but also damage the brain indirectly by weakening the heart.

Diet and nutrition has been a focal point for many researchers aiming to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia and these new studies seem to verify their approach.

Learn More: Diet, Nutrition, and Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

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