Dementia on the rise in aging populations
Life expectancy continues to rise in most countries around the world, and in industrialized nations it is not uncommon for people to live well into their 90s. One consequence is that dementia will become much more common, as a new study reported by Fiona Matthews, Carol Brayne and the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study Investigators published in the open-access international medical journal PLoS Medicine suggests.
A widespread myth is that once a person reaches 80 and is mentally healthy, they are likely to die without mental incapacitation. The new results clearly show that this is not the case.
The researchers followed a representative population of aged people over several years to estimate the risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia near the end of life, and to determine whether factors such as education and social class, which may appear protective earlier in life, can ultimately prevent decline in mental functioning.
Using standardized assessments of cognitive status, the researchers interviewed people age 65 and over at six sites representing rural and urban areas in the UK. Interviews were conducted at regular intervals over 10 years. Of approximately 12,000 study participants who had died by the time of this report, just over 2,500 had an assessment for dementia within one year before dying. Of this group, those who died between ages 65 and 69 had a 6% chance of dying with dementia, and those who died above age 95 had a 58% chance of dying with dementia. When moderate or severe cognitive impairment were included, the rate in people above age 95 reached almost 80%. Women were more likely to develop dementia than men, even after taking into account the fact that women tend to live longer than men. A higher level of education was associated with only a slightly lower risk of dementia before death.
As Willem van Gool (Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam) states in an accompanying Perspective, despite the sobering nature of these data, there is room for slightly more hopeful interpretations that take into account the age of onset or duration of dementia rather than the absolute numbers. While many elderly people indeed wonder how likely it is that they will “lose their mind” before they die, if preventative measures manage to delay the onset of dementia, they would still yield enormous benefits. To prove that preventative measures work, however, will not be an easy task, and societies with aging populations should be prepared for large numbers of elderly patients with dementia.
Citation: Brayne C, Gao L, Dewey M, Matthews FE, Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study Investigators (2006) Dementia before death in ageing societies—The promise of prevention and the reality. PLoS Med 3(9): e397
Andrew Hyde | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
New technique promises tunable laser devices
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...