Editorial: Good news medically for us all

Jul. 15, 2014 @ 10:58 PM

Medical advances, changing our world from generation to generation, continue to give us optimistic hope our children will experience better lives than what we have lived.

We are pouring time, effort and scores of resources into research daily. Each time a breakthrough is found, we rejoice and acknowledge the justification.

But there are times we may not see the tangible. Such will be the case for millions of Americans based on news Tuesday from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Studies incorporating five-year periods dating to 1978 — definitely a significant sample size — show that Alzheimer’s and other dementias are falling in the U.S. and other advanced countries.

The U.S. population of an estimated 316 million in 2013 included better than 14 percent age 65 and over. That’s a percentage that has been steadily rising, in part due to more people taking care of themselves, and as much or more in part to research helping us make better choices.

We cringe at the thought of life being robbed from a person we love, especially through dementias. Alzheimer’s is the most common form, and 5.4 million in America struggle with it. Around the globe there are 35 million.

Sadly, the rate is not dropping everywhere.

The studies suggest dementias can be delayed and in some cases prevented through healthy habits we often disregard. Declines in smoking, heart disease and strokes have all been connected to dementia and all have been declining in the U.S. The study also suggests the rise in the number of people using blood pressure medicine and gaining a high school diploma are factors helping reduce the likelihood of developing dementias.

The average age at which dementias were diagnosed, according to the study, has risen from 80 to 85. Doctors point out, and families will likely agree, there is not a good time to develop dementia, but there is a significant difference between developing it in the early 70s as opposed to a person’s 80s or 90s.

There remains no cure, only drugs to ease symptoms.

But today there is more hope, more reason for optimism about the quality of life we enjoy as we grow older in our country. It is good news for us and our children.