13 things your doctor can check to preserve your brain health

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In a new statement from AHA, researchers found primary care clinics can play an important role in preserving patients’ brain health using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 as a guide, as well as addressing 6 other factors associated with cognitive decline.

Preserving brain health in an aging population is a growing concern in the U.S. An estimated one in five Americans 65 years and older has mild cognitive impairment, and one in seven has dementia.

Life’s Simple 7 focuses on seven lifestyle targets to achieve ideal cardiovascular health: managing blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, reducing blood sugar, increasing physical activity, eating better, losing weight, and not smoking.

The new statement suggests primary care professionals also consider assessing risk factors to address cognitive health.

The six risk factors to consider, in addition to Life’s Simple 7, that impact optimal brain health are depression, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders, less education and hearing loss.

The statement lists risk factors for cognitive impairment, prevention strategies, and best practices to integrate brain health prevention into primary care.

The statement uses cognition to define brain health, referring to the spectrum of intellectual-related activities, such as memory, thinking, reasoning, communication, and problem-solving that enable people to thrive and navigate the world on an everyday basis.

The ability to think, solve problems, remember, perceive and communicate are crucial to successful living; their loss can lead to helplessness and dependency.

Studies have shown that these domains are impacted by factors that are within our control to change.

The team says prevention and mitigation are important because once people have impaired cognition, the current treatment options are very limited.

Recent data show that hypertension, diabetes, and smoking in adulthood and middle-life increase the odds of cognitive decline in middle-age and accelerate cognitive decline in older age.

Primary care is the right place for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline.

Professional guidelines also recommend routine screening for depression and counseling patients to focus on healthy eating and exercising a minimum of 150 minutes a week.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about the blood test that can predict dementia, Alzheimer’s 5 years early, and findings that one year of this exercise training may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about 2 personality traits that may protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and more, and results showing that some diabetes drugs may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

The study is published in Stroke. One author of the study is Ronald M. Lazar, Ph.D., FAHA.

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