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How the brain stays fit into old age

How the brain stays fit into old age



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Study examines ways to protect cognitive skills in old age

Each of us would like to stay mentally fit into old age. However, many people show a significant decline in their cognitive abilities with increasing age and quite a few develop dementia. It is not clear how mental health can be maintained into old age, but lifestyle factors have had a significant impact on the current state of research. The extent to which targeted intervention in lifestyle can counteract the loss of cognitive abilities is to be investigated in a current study for which general practitioners are still being sought.

Under the name "AgeWell.de" the study is carried out in four survey centers (Leipzig, Greifswald, Munich, Kiel). A total of 1,152 family doctor patients between the ages of 60 and 77 with an increased risk of dementia are to be recruited for the examination. They are then used to test the effects of a targeted multicomponent intervention program that should maintain mental health into old age. The overall direction of the study is Prof. Dr. med. Steffi G. Riedel-Heller from the MPH Institute for Social Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Public Health at the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig. Currently participating general practitioners are still being sought in individual survey regions.

Lifestyle with proven influence

Around 1.5 million people in Germany already suffer from dementia and a significant increase in illnesses is expected in the future due to demographic change. Most forms of dementia have so far not been curable. However, observational studies have shown that "the risk of dementia is related to a number of vascular and lifestyle-associated risk factors," reports the University of Greifswald in a communication on the current research project. So far, however, these studies have only examined the effectiveness of interventions for individual lifestyle factors, which, according to the researchers, does not do justice to the multifactorial nature of dementia.

A special intervention program is planned

The AgeWell.de study now examines the effect of simultaneous intervention on several risk factors and disease mechanisms. According to the University of Greifswald, the multi-component intervention program of the AgeWell.de study includes:

  • Nutritional advice,
  • Increase in physical activity,
  • cognitive training,
  • Management of vascular risk factors,
  • Increasing social activity,
  • Medication testing as well
  • Interventions for loss experiences and depressive symptoms.

The goal is to maintain or even improve mental performance in old age. The study is particularly aimed at general practitioners, because in their everyday practice they often face the challenges of dealing with the difficult situation of people with dementia, the University of Greifswald continues. The comprehensive approach of the AgeWell.de project is supported by numerous general practitioners and many are already active cooperation partners. However, other general practitioners are also currently being sought who can bring suitable patients into the study.

General practitioners wanted for participation

Interested general practitioners can personally get information from the DZNE about the exact course of the study. Ina Zwingmann from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) is mentioned here as the contact person for the study. "We are also happy to help interested general practitioners with questions and support," the researchers' note. For the participating general practitioners, the most important task is to recruit patients. The corresponding information material will of course be provided. In addition, a large part of the work steps can also be carried out by the respective practice team, which is specially trained by the researchers. "In our experience, general practitioners like to take part in such projects," emphasize the scientists.

The goal is to improve dementia prevention

The researchers hope that the intervention measures will have positive effects on maintaining or improving cognitive performance, everyday activity and quality of life, among other things. The results of the study should "provide a starting point for better dementia prevention and the reduction of one's own risk of dementia," the scientists continued. The research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. (fp)

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