Does an individual’s level of education reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s?

In the Framingham Heart Study results published last February in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers had closely tracked the health of more than 5,000 volunteers and found that the incidence of dementia declined about 20 percent per decade, starting in the 1970s, but only in people who had at least a high school education.

According to Claudia Satizabal, an author of the study and an instructor in neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine, an individual’s level of education is a key driver in dementia risk as well as having better overall health.

“I think there is a direct biological effect of using your brain and having it interact with the world,” the author says. “I am a believer that there is a casual effect of education on how your brain is challenged.”

Additionally, the study found that our parents’ level of education may also have something to do with dementia risk. Satizabal states that a mother’s education may be more important that the father’s, as a more educated mom may interact with a child in ways that are more beneficial to the developing brain of a child.

Studies done years ago at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago had similar outcomes in that results showed that having more education reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but does not slow memory loss once it starts.

The study revealed that the people with more education were found to have better memory and thinking skills than those with less education.

Attaining higher education, doing things that are mentally challenging and constantly learning provide resilience against the damaging effects of aging on the cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers found in Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that the more education an individual attains, the more likely he/she is to alter the lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.