One of the challenges of longer life expectancies is dealingwith an increased number of people suffering from conditions thatcome with old age, particularly dementia.

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But the good news is that just as people are living longer,those who develop dementia do it much later in life than those ofprevious generations.

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A study from the New England Journal of Medicine finds that theaverage age at which a person is diagnosed with dementia is now 85,up from 80 four decades ago. The study was based on more than 5,000people over the age of 60 from 1975 until the early part of thisdecade.

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It also found that the overall likelihood of a person developing dementia hasdeclined significantly.

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In the first five-year period observed, in the late 1970s andearly 1980s, 3.6 percent of people developed dementia.

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The rate declined in every subsequent period observed; to 2.8percent in the late 1980s, to 2.2 percent in the late 1990s, andfinally to 2.0 percent at the beginning of the 2010s.

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The researchers lacked a clear explanation for the consistentimprovement.

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They therefore did not have much to recommend for furtherimproving the situation. “The factors contributing to this declinehave not been completely identified,” they wrote.

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In general, better health reduces the chance of developingdementia, but it’s not clear what Americans have gotten rightspecifically, since there have been plenty of negative healthtrends during the past 40 years.

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“The prevalence of most vascular risk factors (exceptobesity and diabetes) and the risk ofdementia associated with stroke, atrial fibrillation, or heartfailure have decreased over time, but none of these trendscompletely explain the decrease in the incidence of dementia,”explained the researchers.

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