NAS report: Promising but inconclusive evidence on interventions to prevent cognitive decline, dementia


The public is enormously concerned about dementia and cognitive impairment, and a wide range of programs and products, such as diets, exercise regimens, games, and supplements, purport to keep these conditions at bay. It is difficult for individuals, health care providers and policy makers to ascertain what has been demonstrated to prevent or reduce risk. To help sort through the data and to understand the quality and weight of current evidence for possible interventions, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health, commissioned experts for an extensive scientific review and to provide recommendations for public health messaging and future research priorities. In response to that request, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) committee has concluded that current evidence does not support a mass public education campaign to encourage people to adopt specific interventions to prevent cognitive decline or dementia.

Importantly, the committee also cited “encouraging although inconclusive” evidence for three specific types of interventions — cognitive training, blood pressure control for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity. Based on that evidence, the committee recommended providing the public with accurate information about their potential positive impacts for some conditions while more definitive research on these and other approaches moves forward.

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