Healthy Brain for Life

sudokuThis is a guest post by Jack Meyers.

There cannot be enough said about the need to keep your brain healthy as you age. Degenerative diseases likes Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are frightening to think about, but they do happen. As you age, your brain becomes less capable of cognitive performance. There are some things you can do to fight this, however.

the healthy brain initiative

The Incidence Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are some statistics from a study called ‘The Healthy Brain Initiative’ done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2006 to 2011.

  • Alzheimer’s disease is now the 6th leading cause of death among American adults aged 18 and older, and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
  • Current estimates for the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease range from 2.6 million to 5.2 million Americans, and the risk of developing the disease increases with age.
  • If present trends continue, by 2050, as many as 16 million people may be living in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • For people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, aggregate payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice are projected to increase from $183 billion in 2011 to $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2011 dollars).

In order to fight this trend, the CDC has come up with something they call “A National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health”. They have come up with both short term and long term resolutions to this enormously important issue.

Actions on Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are some of the things they are doing now, in the short term.

Short Term:

  • Pursuing Research on Factors Influencing Cognitive Health
  • Assessing Public Perceptions
  • Conducting Community Education Programs
  • Developing Common Measures of Cognitive Decline for Surveillance and Research

For the longer term, there are more complex actions in store. I will try to simplify them to their most basic ideas.

Long Term:

  • Disseminating information
  • Translating knowledge
  • Implementing policy
  • Conducting surveillance
  • Moving research into practice
  • Conducting intervention research
  • Measuring cognitive impairment and burden
  • Developing capacity

The “Road Map” goes into each of those areas, extensively explaining exactly what they have in mind. I found it an interesting read, though somewhat repetitive. It seems like there is much research still to be done on aging and its effects on cognitive function. Thankfully, the CDC has included ten important steps that can be carried out immediately.

The Ten Steps:

  1. Determine how diverse audiences think about cognitive health and its associations with lifestyle factors.
  2. Disseminate the latest science to increase public understanding of cognitive health and to dispel common misconceptions.
  3. Help people understand the connection between risk and protective factors and cognitive health.
  4. Conduct systematic literature reviews on proposed risk factors (vascular risk and physical inactivity) and related interventions for relationships with cognitive health, harms, gaps and effectiveness.
  5. Conduct controlled clinical trials to determine the effect of reducing vascular risk factors on lowering the risk of cognitive decline and improving cognitive function.
  6. Conduct controlled clinical trials to determine the effect of physical activity on reducing the risk of cognitive decline and improving cognitive function.
  7. Conduct research on other areas potentially affecting cognitive health such as nutrition, mental activity, and social engagement.
  8. Develop a population-based surveillance system with longitudinal follow-up that is dedicated to measuring the public health burden of cognitive impairment in the United States.
  9. Initiate policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels to promote cognitive health by engaging public officials.
  10. Include cognitive health in ‘Healthy People 2020’, a set of health objectives for the nation that will serve as the foundation for state and community public health plans.

Hopefully, with these steps in place and the government taking action, the progression of age-related cognitive issues will take a sharp turn for the better. It is only through research and education that we can truly hope to overcome these insidious diseases and disorders that affect the elderly.

Resources:

The Healthy Brain Initiative
A National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health
http://www.prc-han.org/docs/healthybrainroadmap.pdf

Executive Summary Progress Report on The CDC Healthy Brain Initiative
http://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/HBISummary_508.pdf

Author Bio: Jack Meyers is a regular contributor for http://www.nannybackgroundcheck.com/. As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.

Image Credit: Courtesy of ‘The Healthy Brain Initiative’

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