Why routine brain health screenings is important for oldies over 70

By: | Published: September 13, 2015 8:26 PM

A panel of world experts in aging convened at Saint Louis University has advised to routinely screen those older than 70 for brain health.

A panel of world experts in aging convened at Saint Louis University has advised to routinely screen those older than 70 for brain health.

They recommended that everyone 70 and older should have their memory and reasoning ability evaluated annually by a doctor or health care provider.

This is the first time routine brain health screenings have been recommended for patients, starting at age 70. Patients found to have cognitive problems also should be screened for physical frailty, and vice versa, suggested the panel.

Lead author John Morley said that this is an important step in toward enhancing brain health for aging populations throughout the world, adding that the ability to learn, solve problems and remember is a key to successful health and aging.

Some causes of early cognitive disorder, can be reversed and treated when caught early. These include depression, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, problems with sight and hearing and treatments of multiple health conditions with medications. One can actually fix some of these issues, which is one reason why it’s critical to identify a problem and try to find a root cause, noted Morley.

The progression of cognitive impairment sometimes can be slowed through a series of lifestyle changes, the panel said.

They endorsed changes suggested in FINGER, a Finnish geriatric study published in The Lancet, which found those who ate a healthy diet, exercised, trained their memories and managed cardio-vascular risks were less likely to develop cognitive decline and memory problems than older adults who did not.

The panel endorsed a Mediterranean-type diet, packed with fruits and vegetables, fish twice a week, olive oil, nuts, legumes and whole grains, for patients who have early cognitive problems.

The panelists also noted that population-based studies show those who dance, engage in intellectual activity and play a musical instrument have less mental decline than those who not pursue these hobbies. And video games can improve reasoning, memory, reaction time and attention in older adults.

Physicians need to know if their patients are not remembering or thinking clearly because they might not be able to follow doctors’ orders for medical problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.

The study is published in JAMDA.

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