According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over six million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is projected to double by 2050. Furthermore, the risk of developing dementia doubles every five years after the age of 65, with women being more susceptible to the disease.
But there is hope. A recent report by AARP and the Global Council on Brain Health emphasizes that dementia is not an inevitable condition. In fact, cognitive decline can be fought on many levels, including by individuals, communities, healthcare providers, and policy makers.
“Your brain develops throughout your life,” states Sarah Lenz Lock, Senior Vice President of Policy and Brain Health at AARP and Executive Director of the Global Council on Brain Health. “You can grow new brain cells even as you age.”
Factors such as physical activity, quality sleep, mental engagement, effective stress management, social engagement, and good nutrition all contribute to brain health. Unfortunately, lack of access to quality healthcare, discrimination in housing access, a lifetime of racial discrimination, access to information and quality education can all negatively impact a person’s brain health.
The report notes that individuals who face systemic barriers may have a very different experience over their lifetime. For example, Black, Hispanic, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are often less likely to have insurance coverage than whites. Furthermore, even when African-Americans are fully insured, they may receive substandard care.
It’s time to take action against dementia. By prioritizing brain health through proper care and addressing systemic barriers through policy change and education, we can help reduce the number of people who suffer from this disease. Remember: dementia is not a foregone conclusion. Let’s fight it on all levels so that future generations can enjoy a healthy mind and body.
Improving Dementia Care for Everyone
Recent studies show that when it comes to dementia care, individuals from minority ethnic and racial backgrounds, those with lower socioeconomic status, people from rural areas and the LGBTQ+ community experience challenges in accessing quality services.
Healthcare providers may lack cultural sensitivity, leading to poor communication and treatment. Prejudices such as racism, ageism, and homophobia can cause doctors to misdiagnose symptoms or overlook them entirely.
This becomes a major burden for society. Not addressing these issues means huge healthcare costs and a tremendous waste of human potential that can eventually lead to impaired brain health. In the U.S. alone, the annual cost of dementia is predicted to soar from $305 billion in 2020 to $1.5 trillion by 2050 while impaired brain health could cost the global economy as much as $8.5 trillion each year.
AARP surveys suggest that an individual’s lack of knowledge surrounding whether alternative treatments work, or not seeing what people around them are doing, are the foremost barriers to improving brain health. Providing relevant resources can help people make positive changes and encourage others to follow suit.
In conclusion, to improve brain health for everyone, it is vital to take more notice of the needs of those at risk while addressing social conditions that may be standing in their way.
Recommendations for Promoting Brain Health
The report on brain health suggests that there are various means of enhancing cognitive function through a range of approaches. These recommendations address different stakeholders and offer specific, actionable steps to improve brain health.
One of the easiest ways to enhance brain health is through personal responsibility. By actively participating in healthcare and seeking out trustworthy healthcare providers, individuals can improve their mental and cognitive health. Additionally, incorporating healthy habits into daily life such as exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep, stress management, and social engagement and mental stimulation is recommended.
For Healthcare Providers:
To prioritize prevention, healthcare providers should introduce brain health screenings in check-ups of aged patients and those most susceptible to cognitive issues. Family caregivers should also be given the right tools and advice on how best to provide care for their loved ones. They should be included in consultations where appropriate.
For Policy Makers:
Public policies and practices promoting awareness and early identification of cognitive and mental health problems need to be established. Diverse voices need to be included in the policy-making process. Policymakers should also facilitate healthy lifestyles as this helps people sustain their brain health proactively throughout their lifetimes.
Community involvement is key in raising awareness about brain health and dispelling any misconceptions. Employers especially play a significant role in creating incentives that encourage healthy behavior. Community members should be included in decision-making processes, thereby enabling them to give feedback, diverse perspectives, and expert knowledge.
In summary, creating age-friendly communities, affordability, and encouraging employees to stay cognitively engaged are effective ways of promoting brain health. Lock emphasizes the need for a concerted effort in making these recommendations accessible to everyone.