Education cannot protect against Alzheimer's, study finds

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Advanced levels of education do not protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study that contradicts a number of earlier reports on the topic.

Researchers at Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed a large cohort (roughly 6,500 people) followed over a longer period of time (14 years). Rates of cognitive decline were measured at three-year intervals. More years of education do not lead to a slowing of cognitive decline, they found. Rather, higher education could lead to a higher overall level of cognitive function later in life. It takes a somewhat longer period of time to decline from that higher level of function, they said. A study last February from the University of Michigan Medical School found that education may be contributing to lower levels of cognitive decline among seniors today than a decade ago (McKnight's, 2/21/08).

The results of the latest study may indicate that brain exercises later in life will have little effect on the cognitive decline of an Alzheimer's patient, according to report authors. However, understanding that higher cognitive function results in a longer period of cognitive decline could affect Alzheimer's care and its costs, they note. The research appears in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.
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