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Can We Prevent Dementia?

An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And as people live longer, experts expect that the occurrence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia will become even more common.

Is there any way to prevent these terrible diseases?  A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine offers some hope.

Experts believe that cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity all show modest evidence of helping people prevent mental decline and dementia. Even though clinical trials have not shown conclusively that these interventions can prevent mental decline, researchers believe they could be very useful.

“The evidence is strong enough to suggest the public should at least have access to these results to help inform their decisions about how they can invest their time and resources to maintain brain health with aging,” said Alan I. Leshner, chair of the committee and CEO emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Cognitive training includes programs aimed at enhancing reasoning and problem solving, memory, and speed of processing – to delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.

Blood pressure management for people with hypertension may help prevent, delay, or slow clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

And increased physical activity may delay or slow age-related cognitive decline. It is well-documented that physical activity has many health benefits, and some of these benefits – such as stroke prevention – are causally related to brain health.

Additional research is needed to further understand these interventions and gain confidence in their effectiveness, researchers stress.