A panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine has recommended how health care professionals can help enhance cognitive health in their older adult patients, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The panel also made a distinction between typical cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The experts define cognitive aging as the gradual but noticeable changes in mental functions that happen as people age. "Cognitive aging is not a disease or a level of impairment — it is a lifelong process that affects everyone," said Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School.
In a 2014 survey from AARP, 93% of participants reported that maintaining brain health was a top priority. This spurred the Institute of Medicine to convene a panel to come up with intervention techniques, education for practitioners, and ways to raise public awareness.
The panel recommends that health care practitioners take the following steps to help maintain cognitive health in their older adult patients:
Conduct a formal cognitive assessment to detect cognitive impairment
Screen for risk factors such as alcohol use, smoking history, and diet
Promote benefit of physical exercise, lifelong learning, social engagement and adequate sleep
Highlight importance of reducing cardiovascular risks such as hypertension and diabetes
Identify persons at high risk for delirium before or at hospital admission and institute preventive strategies
Minimize prescription of inappropriate medications
While the panel believes more research is needed to better understand cognitive aging, practitioners can still play a key role in helping to preserve cognitive health in their patients.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks, according to the National Institute on Aging. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first…
An expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine clarified the cognitive aging process by making a distinction from Alzheimer disease and related dementias, and provided recommendations to enhance cognitive health in older adults. Now a new article published in Annals of Internal Medicine highlights key points of that report and serves as a guide for health care professionals seeking to improve the quality of life of older adults by maintaining brain health.
Practitioners define “cognition” as mental functions encompassing attention, thinking, understanding, learning, remembering, problem solving, and decision making. As a person ages there is a gradual, but marked change in these cognitive functions, which is referred to as “cognitive aging.”