As the senior population grows - an estimated 10,000 people turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center - there has been a growing concern about the increase in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. However, a new study from Europe suggests a spike in the number of seniors with Alzheimer's is not a foregone conclusion. Researchers found that the rate of dementia in England and Wales has actually dropped by about 25 percent over the last two decades, according to PBS Newshour.
There are a number of reasons for this decline, experts say, but one of the biggest factors may be the heavy emphasis placed on healthy aging over the last several decades. By encouraging older adults to exercise more, eat healthy and quit smoking, the medical community might have effectively helped seniors lower their risk of developing cognitive issues. Some speculate that this trend will continue into future generations.
"So in other words, our children or our grandchildren may not have the same risk for Alzheimer's that we do," Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, director of the Neurocognitive Disorders Program at the Duke University School of Medicine, told PBS. "The second thing I think that these studies are pointing out is if the risk for Alzheimer's is going down with successive generations, then that is good news because it indicates that it is likely to be due to environmental or lifestyle effects."
The findings highlight the fact that seniors can take proactive steps to maintain their mental function. According to a recent study from Washington University in St. Louis, something as simple as a daily walk or jog can help stave off the development of Alzheimer's.