Trends in the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment in the United States

Declines in heart disease and stroke mortality rates are conventionally attributed to reductions in cigarette smoking, recognition and treatment of hypertension and diabetes, effective medications to improve serum lipid levels and to reduce clot formation, and general lifestyle improvements. Recent evidence implicates these and other cerebrovascular factors in the development of a substantial proportion of dementia cases. Analyses were undertaken to determine whether corresponding declines in age-specific prevalence and incidence rates for dementia and cognitive impairment have occurred in recent years. Data spanning 1 or 2 decades were examined from community-based epidemiological studies in Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana, and from the Health and Retirement Study, which is a national survey. Although some decline was observed in the Minnesota cohort, no statistically significant trends were apparent in the community studies. A significant reduction in cognitive impairment measured by neuropsychological testing was identified in the national survey. Cautious optimism appears justified.