One in ten older Americans has dementia, study finds

Credit: Unsplash+

Cognitive impairment is a significant public health issue in the United States, especially for those aged 65 and above.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University found that almost 10% of adults aged 65 and above have dementia, while another 22% have mild cognitive impairment.

The prevalence of these conditions was higher among those who are older, had lower levels of education, and were Black or Hispanic.

Both men and women had similar rates of dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades, affecting individuals, families, and public programs providing care and services for people with dementia.

According to the study, the economic impact of dementia, including unpaid family caregiving, is estimated to be $257 billion per year in the United States and $800 billion worldwide.

The study was based on data from 3,500 individuals enrolled in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study.

Participants completed a comprehensive set of neuropsychological tests and in-depth interviews between 2016 and 2017, which were used to develop an algorithm for diagnosing dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

Rates of dementia and mild cognitive impairment rose sharply with age, with 3% of people between 65 and 69 having dementia, rising to 35% for people aged 90 and over.

Disparities in cognitive impairment were also observed in the study, driven by exposure to structural and social inequalities.

The research indicates that older adults who self-identified as Black or African American had a disproportionate burden of dementia, while those who identified as Hispanic had a higher prevalence of mild cognitive impairment.

Moreover, both dementia and mild cognitive impairment were more prevalent among people who had fewer opportunities to obtain education.

“Dementia research in general has largely focused on college-educated people who are racialized as white,” says Jennifer Manly, the lead author of the study.

“This study is representative of the population of older adults and includes groups that have been historically excluded from dementia research but are at higher risk of developing cognitive impairment because of structural racism and income inequality.

If we’re interested in increasing brain health equity in later life, we need to know where we stand now and where to direct our resources.”

The findings of the study suggest that more investment is required in research to understand the causes, costs, and consequences of dementia and mild cognitive impairment in the United States.

This would help inform policies aimed at reducing the impact of these conditions on patients, families, and public programs.

Further research is also needed to address disparities in cognitive impairment and promote brain health equity among older adults.

Dementia is characterized by cognitive difficulties that affect a person’s ability to independently perform everyday activities.

Mild cognitive impairment is a classification assigned to people who are thought to be transitioning between normal aging and dementia, but not everyone with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop dementia.

If you care about dementia, please read studies that your walking speed may tell your risk of dementia, and these high blood pressure drugs could prevent dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that high-fiber diet could help lower the dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.