If we live long enough, will we all be demented?


If we live long enough, will we all be demented?

NK Sethi, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center

New York, NY 1021

Recently in the journal “Neurology” there was published an editorial by Dr. David Hogan titled ” if we live long enough will we all be demented?”. This is an interesting editorial which touches on the issue of cognitive decline with aging and is based on data from the 90+ study.  This study looked at the prevalence of all cause dementia in the oldest old that is people above the age of 90 residing in Orange County, California.  According to the study the prevalence of Alzheimer’s dementia and all cause dementia increases with aging with the prevalence doubling every 5 years for women but not men aged 90 and above.

If this data is accurate, it will have important consequences on health care costs in light of the expected growth in the numbers of the oldest old. We know that women outlive men so the lack of an age associated increase of dementia in the oldest old men may very well be on account of the shorter life expectancy of men as compared to women.

This study and the accompanying editorial raise some other important questions. If a significant majority of us are going to become demented especially if we are fortunate to live past 90, should not we all be striving to improve our memory, nourish and nuture our brains so as to stack the odds in our favor. Regular indulgence in neurobics (read my previous posts on neurobics at http://braindiseases.info) may be well advised. Doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, a new motor skill, a musical instrument, eating brain healthy foods (read post on brain foods at http://braindiseases.info) and doing brain friendly activities like yoga as well as meditation may all help to prevent the onset of dementia. At the very least it cannot hurt and the sooner we start the better may be the odds in our favor. This may hold especially true for women given their expected longer life expectancy.

Maybe then some of us will be able to escape the ravage of dementia and live productive lifes past 90.

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