Decline Not Part of Aging
Old age may be associated with forgetfulness, but researchers
say that's not the norm unless the person has atherosclerosis, diabetes, or the genes for
In a study appearing in the July 7 issue of Journal
of the American Medical Association, researchers at the University of California at
Davis studied 5,888 senior citizens to determine if mental decline was naturally a part of
growing old. Their study spanned 10 years, during which study participants underwent a
clinical health assessment every year and cognitive function tests.
were given tests such as recalling the date and country of their birth, counting,
associating various objects with activities and following directions, such as folding a
piece of paper in half. Analysis shows that people with diabetes, atherosclerosis (a
condition in which the arteries harden), or those who carried the Apo4E gene associated
with Alzheimer's were eight times more likely to show cognitive decline than people who
did not have those illnesses. Patients with atherosclerosis alone showed a three times
higher rate of decline.
found that individuals whose cognitive ability remained constant during the study had two
factors in common: They did not carry any of the ApoE4 genes, which is often associated
with Alzheimer's disease, and they had little or no signs of diabetes or
atherosclerosis," says lead study author Mary N. Haan.