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As a cure for dementia continues to elude researchers, focus has turned to delaying its onset. Two studies published Monday by the University of Southern California focused on dementia, examining the role of education and chronic disease in its onset. Alzheimer's disease and dementia currently affect about five million Americans.

The first study, led by Eileen Crimmins, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, found that a college education can both keep dementia at bay and extend the number of years spent with a healthy mind. Crimmins’s report examined results of a Health and Retirement Study from 2000 and 2010 respectively, both of which were based on samples of about 10,000 people.

The lifespan of adults over 65 with good cognitive function and a college education rose in the years studied by an average of 1.51 years for men and 1.79 years for women, the study found. On the other hand, people who did not complete high school and had good cognition saw a shorter increase in lifespan -- 0.66 years for men and 0.27 years for women.

​The second study, run by Julie Zissimopoulos of the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, examined a sample of 27,734 people aged 51 and older to discern whether a reduction in chronic diseases linked to dementia, like hypertension and diabetes, would improve health and life expectancy. While reducing cases of chronic disease improves health and longevity, it also increases cases of dementia. For example, curing hypertension increases the average number of years spent with dementia (assuming survival to age 65) from 2.97 to 3.37 years.