COMMENTARY

Cognitive Health for an Aging Population

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS

Disclosures

November 16, 2009

In This Article

Public Education Campaigns

In recent years, a number of public education campaigns to promote cognitive health have been launched by voluntary organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Alzheimer's Association.

The Alzheimer's Association's "Maintain Your Brain" campaign[40] includes the slogan: "Think about your future. Maintain your brain today." The Website suggests measures to sustain and enhance brain health (Table 3). Much more information is available at the Alzheimer's Association Website, including "Ten Ways to Maintain Your Brain."[41]

Table 3. A Brain Health Lifestyle

Stay mentally active by staying curious and involved and committing to lifelong learning: read, write, work puzzles, attend plays or lectures, play games, garden, or pursue memory exercises.
Remain socially active: engage in social and leisure activities by volunteering, traveling, or joining social clubs.
Stay physically active: engage in activities such as walking, bicycling, gardening, tai chi, yoga, and other activities for about 30 minutes daily to get the body moving and the heart pumping. Avoid head injuries.
Adopt a brain-healthy diet: include antioxidant-rich foods and consider taking vitamin supplements.
Keep body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar under control.

Adapted from: Alzheimer’s Association. Brain health. 2009. Available at: http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_brain_health_maintain_your_brain.asp

Similarly, the AARP's "Staying Sharp" campaign[42] offers a wealth of information and suggestions for maintaining brain health. A 20-page booklet (available online) called Staying Sharp: Quality of Life covers evidence-based activities such as healthy eating, exercise, sleep, and staying socially connected, and also offers caregiver tips. Other online brochures in AARP's Staying Sharp series include Memory Loss and Aging, Depression, Chronic Health Issues, and Learning Throughout Life. These resources are invaluable not only for aging individuals, but also for family members and caregivers. AARP's Brain Health Web page provides detailed suggestions for brain exercises, brain-healthy diets, social connectedness, and memory-improving tools.

To be successful and achieve desired goals, it is important for any long-term campaign to reach younger generations as well so that the adoption of lifestyles that promote cognitive health can begin earlier, and possibly, achieve greater success.[15] Until we have more definitive data regarding the prevention or treatment of cognitive decline, cognitive impairment, and dementia, the most logical interventions at this moment are to gain a greater understanding of cognitive changes in aging, follow the best evidence-supported lifestyle recommendations to influence cognitive change in a positive direction, and learn the early warning signs of cognitive decline that should not be ignored.

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