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Time Out! Brain Check

Time Out! Brain Check

Estell Getty (Golden Girls) died at 75 from complications of Lewy body dementia; Charles Bronson (Death Wish) battled Alzheimer’s before succumbing at age 81. Like them, millions of Americans battle cognition problems while in their 70s. In fact, 44 percent of folks 75-84 and 15 percent of those 65-74 have Alzheimer’s and/or another form of dementia. So when a panel of experts recommended screening for cognitive problems starting at age 70, we thought it made sense.

Some causes of cognitive problems, such as depression, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, and medications, can be treated and even reversed. And the progression of cognitive diseases like vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s can sometimes be slowed by adopting a healthy diet; controlling high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, and high blood glucose; and by staying engaged in social and intellectual interest.

But why wait until you’re 70? Today you can identify risk factors for cognitive problems sooner and act to eliminate them. High blood pressure is a big culprit: One study found 17 percent of dementia cases result from untreated or ineffectively treated midlife hypertension. And if your glucose level is 115mg/dL (pre-diabetes) your risk of developing cognition problems jumps 18 percent; full-blown diabetes increases the risk 40 percent. So check your blood pressure and glucose levels with your doc. And at any age, ditch the Five Food Felons, eat 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily, get in your 10,000 steps every day, and learn to manage stress and practice a stress management technique daily.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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