AARP Eye Center
More middle-aged adults should be talking with their doctors about their risk for dementia, experts say. But new research suggests few are having this conversation.
A recent report in JAMA Neurology analyzed survey results from more than 1,000 adults ages 50 to 64 and found that while nearly half of respondents thought they were likely to develop dementia, only about 5 percent had discussed dementia prevention with their physicians.
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One likely reason: fear of diagnosis, says Scott Turner, a neurologist and director of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown University. There is no cure for the disease, which is expected to affect nearly 14 million Americans by 2060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What's more, there are just a handful of medications to treat its symptoms.
Another factor preventing dementia discussions: shorter appointments, which leaves less time for patients and physicians to talk about matters not of immediate concern. Plus, adults who have early signs of memory loss may be unaware or in denial of their cognitive changes, says Turner, who was not involved in the JAMA report.
But bringing up brain health is important, even if signs of memory loss are absent and it's years before the disease is typically diagnosed.
Reducing dementia risk starts in midlife
As with other chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, adults can minimize their risk for developing dementia later in life by staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight in their 30s, 40s and 50s, Turner says.