Dementia study that shows higher education has little impact on prevention being revisited

So there is more evidence to add to the pile of prevention, but determents of the rate of decline remain shrouded.

There isn’t exactly a wealth of definitive things to say regarding causal factors of dementia. There are correlative risks sure, behavioral links, biological/physical catalyzes but ultimately victims of the disorder are impossible to predict.

One of the finds generally observed as categorical is the role higher education plays in warding off the illness. This data is heartened by what we know about the “cognitive reserve.” Extended periods of time dedicated to academic activities exercises the brain and improves our ability to adapt and adjust.  Thus it follows that the greater the cognitive reserve the less volume of brain cells likely to be affected if some of them become compromised.  Unfortunately, a study performed on 3,000 elderly individuals revealed higher education to be mostly irrelevant once the process of cognitive decline has actually begun.

Over the course of eight years, those with higher levels of education performed better on various tests but showed nothing like the enhanced defense against brain erosion previously imagined. So there is more evidence to add to the pile of prevention, but determents of the rate of decline remain shrouded.

Robert Wilson is a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center and the lead author of the study. Wilson, like many researchers, was falsely lead to believe higher education could disrupt the celerity of cognitive degenerative illness based on the degree of severity observed patient to patient. For example, not all patients that show physical signs of Alzheimer’s had trouble with memory or higher level thinking.

Fend off deterioration

Wilson wanted to make this logical postulation conclusive. So he measured the rate of decline in patients with higher and lower educations, finding:

“We found a fairly consistent answer that education is not modifying the trajectory of cognitive change in old age.”

It should be noted that even the proven benefits higher education has on a healthy mind, are dulled the older we get. To reinforce the effects it’s suggested we remain socially engaged and intellectually stimulated as we grow older.

The correlative prevention methods are well documented. Limit alcohol intake, try to manage a balanced diet, cut out smoking, exercise and be sure to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar levels.

CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.