Some causes of early cognitive disorder, such as depression, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, problems with sight and hearing, and treatments of other health conditions, can be reversed and treated when detected early. A panel of world experts in aging convened at Saint Louis University has recommended that everyone aged 70 years and older should have their memory and reasoning ability evaluated annually by a doctor or health care provider.
The panel also suggested that patients found to have cognitive problems should be screened for physical frailty, and vice versa. Lead author John Morley said, "This is an important step in toward enhancing brain health for aging populations throughout the world. The ability to learn, solve problems and remember is a key to successful health and aging. 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."
The panel said, "The progression of cognitive impairment sometimes can be slowed through a series of lifestyle changes." These experts 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 cardiovascular risks were less likely to develop cognitive decline and memory problems than older adults who did not.
The panel endorsed the Mediterranean 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 said, "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 JAMA.