A recent study has now found that educated people could face increased risk from Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common cause of dementia in old people. Although Alzheimer's tends to be associated with a later age of onset among the educated, it progresses more rapidly.
In other words, in highly educated people, a rapid decline is noted following onset of Alzheimer's manifestations, in the opinion of Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, senior researcher involved in the study. The researchers analyzed the disease progression in nearly 312 people for 5 years, diagnosed with Alzheimer's. All the study participants ranged from being highly educated to illiterate and were required to take up brain function tests.
Surprisingly, every additional year of education was found to result in a 0.3 % additional deterioration in the cognitive function, more specifically in memory and thought processes. This effect was valid even when other factors such as brain changes, hypertension, depression and age were considered. The results of this interesting study can be found in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
It is hypothesized that the above finding could be due to the intrinsic ability of highly educated people to delay onset of the disease and it's symptoms, a phenomenon called cognitive reserve.
'When more and more of the disease accumulates in the brain they are able to compensate for a long time, but at some point they cannot cope with it anymore and they manifest the disease. Because a lot of disease has accumulated they decline faster,' concluded Dr.Scarmeas.
The progressive disease for which there is no satisfactory cure affects an approximate of 12 million people worldwide. With the ever-increasing aging population, there is a vital need for effective treatment strategies.