For many older adults, cognitive health and performance remain stable over the course of their lifetime, with only a gradual and slight decline in short-term memory and reaction times. But for others, this normal, age-related decline in cognitive function progresses into a more serious state of cognitive impairment or into various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Many preventive measures for cognitive decline and for preventing Alzheimer’s—mental stimulation, exercise, and a variety of dietary supplements—have been suggested, but their value in delaying the onset and/or reducing the severity of decline or disease is unclear. Questions also remain as to how the presence of certain conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, influence an individual’s risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. To examine these important questions about Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline in older people, the National Institute on Aging and Office of Medical Applications of Research of the National Institutes of Health convened a State-of-the-Science Conference in Bethesda, MD on April 26 to 28, 2010, to assessed the available scientific evidence related to the following questions: 1) What factors are associated with the reduction of risk of Alzheimer’s disease? 2) What factors are associated with the reduction of risk of cognitive decline in older adults? 3) What are the relationships between the factors that affect Alzheimer’s disease and the factors that affect cognitive decline? 4) What are the therapeutic and adverse effects of interventions to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease? 5) What are the therapeutic and adverse effects of interventions to improve or maintain cognitive ability, or preserve cognitive function? Are there different outcomes in identifiable subgroups? 6) If recommendations for interventions cannot be made currently, what studies need to be done that could provide the quality and strength of evidence necessary to make such recommendations to individuals?
Dr. Neil Buckholtz