Education Can Reduce Dementia In Old Age
We are all familiar with the benefits of getting a good education. In addition to increasing our job prospects and elevating our earning potential, education is a great way to broaden our perspectives and help us mature as individuals.
Now, it seems, that there may be health advantages to higher education, as well. A new study has found that when people stay in school longer, they seem to not only show fewer symptoms of dementia throughout their lifetime, but they also seemed better able to adjust to the effects of dementia on their brains, as well.
When dementia occurs, proteins can build up in the brain that lead to the damage of nerve cells. While education cannot stop that damage, it may enable the brain to better cope with it and lessen the consequences. The current findings, published in the journal Brain, support previous research that has consistently shown that the more time a person spends learning, the more they can potentially lower their risk of dementia.
In the study in question, researchers examined the brains of over 870 people who were part of previous studies on aging. Educational profiles were compiled on all of the study subjects. What they found was that the more education a person had, the better they were at coping with changes in their brain that stemmed from dementia.
Furthermore, more education was also associated with a lower risk for the condition. In fact, for every year spent in school, there was an 11 percent decrease in the chances of developing dementia.
The findings lend support to the idea that encouraging learning early on and continuously throughout a person's life may have tangible health benefits as they grow older. In addition to the potential physiological advantages, education also benefits society on the whole in terms of quality of life and standard of living.
The data could therefore have significant implications in terms public health and educational initiatives and could influence policymakers regarding the allocation of funding for public programs.
While educational experts may laud the results of the study, experts are still at a bit of a loss to explain why learning has this protective effect. It may be that people who dedicate a great deal of time to learning have different brain physiologies which makes them more resilient to the effects of dementia.
Alternatively, people with more education may simply be more able to manage or sequester the symptoms of dementia. More research needs to be done to answer these questions, but for now, the take home message is that staying in school can have practical as well as health related advantages.
If you have questions or concerns about dementia, speak with your physician. For more information, visit the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).