Education Staves Off Alzheimer's

But seems to speed progress of disease once it sets in
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2007 4:17 AM CDT
Education Staves Off Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's patient Dorothy Eckert, left, hugs her daughter Louise Eckert at their home in Norristown Pa., Thursday, April 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)   (Associated Press)

Higher levels of education help delay the onset of Alzheimer's, but once the disease takes hold, mental decline is faster among those with more schooling, researchers have found. Each year of  education is linked to a 2.5 month delay in accelerated memory loss, according to the study in Neurology. But once it begins, mental deterioration progresses 4% faster for each year of education.

That means someone who attended school for 16 years might suffer mental decline nearly 50% faster than a person with only four years of education. Better educated people appear to have a greater "cognitive reserve," researchers speculate. The findings are "important to clinicians so they can advise patients that things might get very bad very fast," said the lead researcher. (Read more mental illness stories.)

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