An expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine clarified distinctions between Alzheimer's and related dementias, and provided recommendations to enhance cognitive health. A new article in Annals of Internal Medicine highlights key points of that report, serving as a guide for health care professionals seeking to improve the quality of life of older adults by maintaining brain health.
CognitionPractitioners define "cognition" as mental functions encompassing
- Problem solving,
- Decision making.
Cognitive Aging"Cognitive aging is not a disease or a level of impairment--it is a lifelong process that affects everyone," explains lead author Dr. Sharon K. Inouye, Director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, Massachusetts and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. "Given the sizable number of adults approaching older age, understanding the impact of cognitive aging has become a significant health concern."
Older adults seem to share the same concern about their health as a 2014 survey by the AARP found that 93% of respondents said maintaining brain health was a top priority. In response, the Institute of Medicine committee created recommendations that focus on prevention and intervention opportunities, seek to educate health care practitioners, and help raise public awareness of cognitive health.
Brain HealthAction areas for practitioners include:
- EARLY DIAGNOSIS: Conduct a formal cognitive assessment to detect cognitive impairment
- RISK SCREENING: Screen for risk factors such as alcohol use, smoking history, and diet
- PREVENTION & THERAPY: Promote benefit of physical exercise, lifelong learning, social engagement and adequate sleep
- TREAT RELATED CONDITIONS: Highlight importance of reducing cardiovascular risks such as hypertension and diabetes
- HAZARD WARNINGS: Identify persons at high risk for delirium before or at hospital admission and institute preventive strategies
- DRUGS: Minimize prescription of inappropriate medications
- Driving safety,
- Financial decision-making,
- Use of nutraceuticals,
- Effectiveness of brain games among older adults.
"There is still more to learn about the biological process involved with cognitive aging, but there are interventions that can be made now. Health care professionals play a vital role in working with older patients and their caregivers to maintain optimal brain health."
- The article was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging (grants P01AG031720, K07AG041835, and R01AG044518). Dr. Inouye holds the Milton and Shirley F. Levy Family Chair.
- Enhancing Cognitive Aging: Clinical Highlights of a Report From the Institute of Medicine; Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, 23 June 2015