Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the causes, severity, and prevalence of dementia in a representative sample of 494 85-year-olds living in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Methods: The study included a psychiatric interview, neuropsychological and physical examinations, comprehensive laboratory tests, electrocardiography, chest radiography, computed tomography (CT) of the head, and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid. A person close to each subject was also interviewed. Dementia was defined according to the criteria proposed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (third edition, revised), Alzheimer's disease according to the criteria of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association, and vascular dementia according to recently proposed criteria that incorporate information from CT scanning and the patient's neurologic history.
Results: The prevalence of dementia was 29.8 percent (147 subjects). The condition was mild in 8.3 percent, moderate in 10.3 percent, and severe in 11.1 percent. There were no significant sex-related differences in prevalence or severity. Of the subjects with dementia, 43.5 percent had Alzheimer's disease, 46.9 percent had vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia in 34.6 percent, dementia related to cerebral hypoperfusion in 4.1 percent, and mixed dementia in 8.2 percent), and 9.5 percent had dementia due to other causes. The three-year mortality rate was 23.1 percent in the subjects without dementia, 42.2 percent in the patients with Alzheimer's disease, and 66.7 percent in the patients with vascular dementia. Infarcts detected by CT scanning were significantly more common in the subjects with dementia than in those without it (27.9 percent vs. 12.6 percent).
Conclusions: Dementia was present in nearly a third of unselected 85-year-olds in Sweden. Almost half these subjects appeared to have vascular dementia, which may currently be more amenable to prevention or treatment than Alzheimer's disease.