Alzheimer’s Hits Educated as Hard as Less Schooled
Highly educated people don't withstand the impact of Alzheimer's disease any better than those with less schooling, according to a study that contradicts previous research, Bloomberg reported.
The study of 6,500 people in Chicago, published online today by the journal Neurology, found no link between a person's educational level and their rate of decline to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The results suggest doctors have to watch all patients closely for signs of mental deterioration.
Alzheimer's, a brain disease that impairs memory, language and other mental abilities, afflicts about 18 million people worldwide, a figure expected to double by 2025, according to the World Health Organization. While past studies suggested education helps people stave off the disease, it's more likely that the better schooled simply have farther to fall before the impact becomes noticeable, said Robert Wilson, a professor at Rush University in Chicago who led the study.
"It looks like things that are indicators of socioeconomic status don't affect your underlying risk" once dementia is detected, Wilson said today in a telephone interview. Education "provides you a little bit of a cushion, if you have a higher level, but it's no absolute protection."
The research tracked residents of Chicago's South Side neighborhood over 14 years, testing memory, problem-solving and other skills at three-year intervals. The length of the study and frequency of testing made the research more accurate than past reviews, Wilson said.