An estimated 5.5 million Americans age 65 or older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists haven’t yet found a proven way to slow its progression or prevent it, but we do know that changes in the brain begin to happen years before a diagnosis. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Institute on Aging, there’s a “window of opportunity” to stop memory loss.
Speaking at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York, Maria Carrillo, PhD, the chief scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, spoke about the importance of a yearly wellness check-up that includes cognitive health testing as the first step to fight the disease. “Today, we encourage everyone to think about ensuring their loved ones have an appropriate clinical assessment, annual wellness visit, and cognitive assessments as part of their routine annual healthcare,” said Dr. Carrillo.
When caught in its early stages, Alzheimer’s can be combatted in several ways. “While current medications do not prevent, stop, or reverse Alzheimer’s, they can help lessen the symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a limited time,” reads the Alzheimer Association’s website. “An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis provides you with a better chance of benefiting from treatment.”
“Today, we encourage everyone to think about ensuring their loved ones have an appropriate clinical assessment, annual wellness visit, and cognitive assessments as part of their routine annual healthcare.” —Maria Carrillo, PhD, CSO of the Alzheimer’s Association
If your primary care provider doesn’t already assess the health of your brain, you can ask for it to be made a part of your preventative healthcare checklist, which includes mammograms and colonoscopies, STD screenings, and vaccinations.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that physicians give cognitive assessments to individuals with memory concerns, people whose families have expressed concern about impairment, and Medicare beneficiaries. While there are numerous tests, the organization says that some work best in the primary care setting. For example, the General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition (GPCOG) tool; the Mini-Cog, a screening for cognitive impairment in older adults; and The Memory Impairment Screen.
Catching the disease early offers the opportunity to participate in clinical trials or make lifestyle changes, like eating healthy and exercising consistently, that have been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. So ask your doctor about the best course of action for you.
A neurologist does these 5 things every day for better brain health. And make sure you’re eating all the noggin’-helping foods, too.