A new study published in Neurology journal has found that dementia cases have decreased at an average of 13% every decade for people of European ancestry living in either the U.S. or Europe.

The researchers analyzed and aggregated the results of seven different European studies on dementia, giving them a look into dementia rates for 49,202 individuals older than 65 years throughout 1985 to 2015. They found that 4,253 (8.6%) of these people developed dementia, and the likelihood of developing the disease was increased with age. However, they also noticed that the rate of dementia among these individuals decreased at about 13% each decade. Should this trend continue steady, they predict that, by 2040, 15 million fewer people would develop dementia in high-income countries.

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Though the researchers aren’t entirely sure why these rates have diminished over time, they believe that “several medical interventions” influencing health issues such as blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol may have contributed.

“The steady decline in incidence over three decades suggests that preventive efforts involving lifestyle education and health interventions such as blood pressure control and antithrombotic medication can offset at least part of the growing burden of dementia from global gains in life expectancy,” Lori Chibnik, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, said in a press release.

“Providing this evidence is the first step toward elucidating the factors at play behind that decline and eventually effective interventions to promote brain health.”

More specifically, the researchers discovered that incidence of dementia substantially decreased in men (24%) as compared to women (8%). However, due to the ethnic nature of those who participated in the study, the results currently can only apply to those of European ancestry until another study is completed that includes more diverse populations. 

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