COMMENTARY

Cognitive Health for an Aging Population

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS

Disclosures

November 16, 2009

In This Article

Brain Health in Aging

What people fear most about aging isn't the loss of physical abilities, but the loss of mental capacity.[1] Senility, or at the very least, noticeable cognitive decline, is often regarded as an inevitable, irreversible, and unpreventable consequence of aging. Although some merely joke about their "senior moments," others fret that their inability to remember something is an early sign of dementia.

Myths and misunderstandings about cognition and aging have important public health implications. If people don't believe they can influence their own cognitive futures, they will have little motivation to attempt to do so. Messages about adopting brain-healthy lifestyles will not be heeded by those who most need to hear them.

Because of heavy media coverage, people are especially frightened by the specter of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although not the same, age-associated cognitive decline and AD are too closely related to ignore one when talking about the other. However, this article is primarily about preserving cognitive function, and the public and private efforts already underway to investigate and promote cognitive health in all aging persons.

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