Scientists say there is strong evidence to suggest that cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity could help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
According to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, these three interventions should be available to the masses today to help inform their decisions about how they can invest their time and resources to maintain brain health with aging. While previous studies haven’t been able to show positive effect of these interventions on preventing dementia, new set of evidence from last few years suggest that three classes of interventions can be described as supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence. These interventions are:
Cognitive training – which includes programs aimed at enhancing reasoning and problem solving, memory, and speed of processing – to delay or slow age-related cognitive decline. Such structured training exercises may or may not be computer-based; blood pressure management for people with hypertension – to prevent, delay, or slow clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia; and increased physical activity – to delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.
While cognitive training as an intervention has been garnering increased attention, there is almost no evidence to suggest long-term benefits and whether training in one domain, such as processing speed, yields benefits in others, such as in memory and reasoning, and if this can translate to maintaining independence in instrumental activities of daily living, such as driving and remembering to take medications.
Evidence from one randomized controlled trial suggests that cognitive training delivered over time and in an interactive context can improve long-term cognitive function as well as help maintain independence in instrumental activities of daily living for adults with normal cognition. However, results from other randomized controlled trials that tested cognitive training were mixed.
Managing blood pressure for people with hypertension, particularly during midlife – generally ages 35 to 65 years – is supported by encouraging but inconclusive evidence for preventing, delaying, and slowing clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia, the committee said. The available evidence, together with the strong evidence for blood pressure management in preventing stroke and cardiovascular disease and the relative benefit/risk ratio of antihypertensive medications and lifestyle interventions, is sufficient to justify communication with the public regarding the use of blood pressure management, particularly during midlife, for preventing, delaying, and slowing clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia, the report says.
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.