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As people age they tend to contribute a lack of recall on a “senior moment.” In people over 70 are described as cognitive impaired–an umbrella term for significant memory loss to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Kenneth Langa, M.D., PhD, University of Michigan Medical School physician, and associates, based a study of 11,000 people from data provided by the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), found that between 1993 and 2002 there has been a drop in cognitive impairment from 12.2% to 8.7%–a 3.5% improvement in cognitive ability in the senior group over 70.

Although the reasons for the seniors maintaining their cognitive ability is unknown, it is suggested that today’s older people are more likely to have more formal education, higher economic status, and better care for risk factors–such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking–that can jeopardize their brains. In fact there was a correlation of the people with higher levels of personal wealth and formal education with a decreased incidence of cognitive impairment.

The researchers also found the more-educated seniors who had cognitive impairment were more likely to die within two years from the onset of symptoms. However, researchers added, this may be the result of a “cognitive reserve” from the effect of a person’s better education.