Scientists increasingly say that taking care of your mind and body may be the most significant way to delay the onset of cognitive decline. Recent research has found that 40% of all dementia cases could be prevented by making certain lifestyle changes.
The national Centers for Disease Control has selected the Alzheimer’s Association to lead a national effort to develop and disseminate public health strategies and resources aimed at reducing risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
“Current science suggests that there are actions people can take to reduce the risk of cognitive decline,” Harry Johns, Alzheimer’s Association President said in a news release. “Our work will be focused on developing and identifying the best strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and translating them into information and resources that state and local public health departments can easily implement in their communities.”
The five-year, $3.3 million grant was funded as part of the BOLD Act, which was adopted by Congress in 2018. The law seeks to create a national public health infrastructure to implement effective Alzheimer’s interventions.
Two other institutions were awarded grants under the Act: New York University’s School of Medicine, which was designated as the lead to work on early diagnosis of dementia, and the University of Minnesota, which will work to develop information on dementia caregiving.
Richard Isaacson, Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, released two studies last year on lifestyle changes and other medical interventions that he said showed that people can slow cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.
In an interview last year, Isaacson said that “people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease should no longer feel helpless.”
While there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, there is growing scientific consensus to suggest that individuals may be able to reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting healthy lifestyles, including physical exercise, healthy diet and controlling heart health risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and smoking.
Under the BOLD Act grant, the Alzheimer’s Association will lead efforts to identify public health approaches to addressing risk factors and reviewing the most up-to-date scientific evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia. The Association will then work to translate the scientific evidence into specific activities that can be undertaken by public health agencies.
“Reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia is core to our mission,” Johns said. “We’re excited to work with leaders in public health and dementia research to develop needed strategies and resources that can help citizens across the country reduce their risk of cognitive decline.”