Primary care has an important role to play in preserving patients’ brain health from the earliest age by using ‘Life’s Simple Seven’ as a basis, new research has concluded.
Preserving the brain health of an ageing population is a growing concern globally, with an estimated one in five people in the US aged 65 or over having a mild cognitive impairment.
While one in seven over 65s currently has dementia, that is expected to triple in the US by 2050, the new study has found.
To help support brain health well in advance of that age, ‘A Primary Care Agenda for Brain Health,’ from the American Stroke Association and American Heart Association, emphasises the role of primary care in promoting the importance of ‘Life’s Simple Seven’.
The approach focuses on seven lifestyle targets to achieve ideal cardiovascular health – managing blood pressure, healthy cholesterol levels, reducing blood sugar, increasing physical activity, eating better, losing weight and not smoking.
“Primary care is the right home for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline,” says Professor Ronald M. Lazar, director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.
“Primary care professionals are most likely to identify and monitor risk factors early and throughout the lifespan.
“Prevention doesn’t start in older age; it exists along the health care continuum from paediatrics to adulthood.
“The evidence in this statement demonstrates that early attention to these factors improves later life outcomes.”
As well as Life’s Simple Seven, the study highlights a further six risk factors that can impact optimal brain health – depression, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders, less education and hearing loss.
The study lists risk factors for cognitive impairment, prevention strategies and best practices to integrate brain health prevention into primary care.
“Scientists are learning more about how to prevent cognitive decline before changes to the brain have begun,” says Professor Lazar, also a professor of neurology and neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We have compiled the latest research and found Life’s Simple Seven, plus other factors like sleep, mental health and education are a more comprehensive lifestyle strategy that optimises brain health in addition to cardiovascular health.”
The statement uses cognition to define brain health, referring to the spectrum of intellectual-related activities, such as memory, thinking, reasoning, communication, and problem solving that enables people to thrive and navigate the world on an everyday basis.
The ability to think, solve problems, remember, perceive and communicate are crucial to successful living; their loss can lead to dependency.
“Studies have shown that these domains are impacted by factors that are within our control to change,” Professor Lazar says.
“Prevention and mitigation are important, because once people have impaired cognition, the current treatment options are very limited.”
According to the study:
- Recent data show that hypertension, diabetes and smoking in adulthood and middle-life increase the odds of cognitive decline in middle-age and accelerate cognitive decline in older age.
- People with dementia experience lower quality of life, and caregivers – typically family members – experience high rates of psychological stress and physical ill-health. Dementia is more costly than heart disease or cancer, with worldwide costs estimated at $818 billion in 2015.
- Primary care is the right place for practice-based efforts to prevent or postpone cognitive decline. This setting can provide comprehensive coordinated care to promote AHA‘s Life’s Simple 7 as a guide for brain health and overall wellness.
- Professional guidelines also recommend routine screening for depression and counselling patients to focus on healthy eating and exercising a minimum of 150 minutes a week.
- Implementation of practices to prevent cognitive decline often fall short – referred to as an evidence-practice gap. However, new practices and technology like telehealth, which are more common as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are addressing this gap.
- Lack of access to primary care services may be a barrier to prevention. Even with the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 15 per cent of Americans adults still lack health insurance, and 25 per cent of Americans do not have a source of primary care.
“Many people think of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and other risk factors as affecting only heart health, yet these very same risk factors affect our brain health. Patients might be more likely to pay attention to the importance of addressing modifiable risk factors if they understood the links,” adds Professor Lazar.
Learn more about virtual reality in rehab
Event is an opportunity to hear from expert Dr Katherine Dawson, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist.
An event later this month will give neuro-rehab professionals an opportunity to learn more about the use of virtual reality in the field.
The virtual webinar, on 26th January at 1.20pm to 2.30pm, features an in-depth talk by Dr Katherine Dawson, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist.
A Guide to Virtual Reality, which can be booked by emailing email@example.com, will cover:
– Growth of digital health
– Virtual Reality(VR) / Telerehabilitation evidence base
– Virtual tour of the Brain Recovery Zone VR platform
– Where does the Brain Recovery Zone sit in a clinical pathway
– Clinical outcomes, case studies, and research trial
Dr. Katherine Dawson has over 15 years experience working in various rehabilitation settings (both within the NHS and private sector) with individuals who have a wide range of neurological conditions.
She has a particular interest in cognitive rehabilitation, and working with individuals and families to manage emotional and behavioural changes following Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
She is currently involved in research with the NHS regarding ABI and telerehabilitation, and has recently published a book exploring adjustment to brain injury from the perspectives of clients, family members and clinicians.
In December 2017, Katherine set up a local neuro-rehab service (Sphere Rehab) with her business partner, focusing on community integration post ABI. She also co-founded the Brain Recovery Zone neuro rehab Virtual Reality platform in the summer of 2019. The team are commissioned by several local CCGs and also work within the private sector.
Ahead of the event, she said: “I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Think Therapy 1st for inviting me to talk about VR and the Brain Recovery Zone. Virtual Reality has great potential in neuro rehab – both to ‘up’ the dosage of rehab, in addition to promoting ongoing engagement and self management.
“I am really looking forward to delivering this webinar and discussing some of the clinical outcomes including the work completed together with Think Therapy 1st and other clients.”
Helen Merfield, Managing Director, Think Therapy 1st, which is organising the event, said: “I am really excited about our VR event we have used Dr Dawson on a number of cases with amazing results and her VR really has changed lives.
“So much so that we are partnering with her company Sphere as a preferred provider for both VR through Brain Recovery Zone and Clinical and Neuro psychology. Close working ties can only improve outcomes which for both our companies are already impressive.”
To register for the event email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sport and exercise ‘have key role in mental health and wellbeing’
The Moving for Mental Health report highlights the role of physical activity in supporting mental resilience and recovery
Physical activity and sport can play a key role in supporting mental health and wellbeing and helping people to recover from the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report has concluded.
The Moving for Mental Health report includes better training for health professionals to prescribe movement as a means of effectively tackling the vast growth in people experiencing mental health issues.
Produced following the onset of the pandemic, the report sets out evidence that developing a healthy relationship with physical activity and being involved in linked programmatic interventions and social networks is beneficial, can improve people’s mental health and wellbeing, and help tackle social isolation.
The project, by the Sport for Development Coalition and Mind, highlights how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of single-sector responses to addressing complex mental health problems and tackling growing health inequalities.
The report recommends physical activity and community sport be further embedded in health policy and integrated care systems while calling for an enhanced role for experts by experience and diverse communities leading in the design, implementation and evaluation of future strategy and programming.
Launched at an online meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sport, it is also designed to support and inspire public bodies, funders, commissioners and policy-makers as well as community-based programme providers aiming to enhance the impact of movement for mental health.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “While Mind’s research suggests that half of adults and young people have relied on physical activity to cope during the pandemic, we also know that physical activity levels for people with long-term health conditions, including mental health problems, have declined.
“Considering how vital physical activity is for many people’s mental health, it is clear that we need a collective effort to reach those who need support the most.”
Andy Reed, chair of the Sport for Development Coalition, said: “This report is aimed at supporting and informing policy-makers about how we can maximise the contribution of targeted sport and physical activity-based interventions at this crucial time.”
The research was led by a team of academic researchers from Edge Hill University and Loughborough University, and draws on evidence and submissions from over 70 organisations including sport and mental health organisations, public bodies and Government departments.
Andy Smith, professor of sport and physical activity at Edge Hill University, said: “The impact of Covid-19 on people’s mental health and wellbeing cannot be overstated.
“It has brought to light the significant mental health inequalities which existed prior to COVID-19, but which have since worsened further, especially among those living in under-served and low-income communities.
“Our research is calling on the Government and other public bodies to invest in the provision of movement opportunities for mental health across multiple policy sectors, and to use the evidence presented as a basis for making more effective policy decisions which benefit everyone’s mental health and which tackle deep-seated inequalities.”
Moving for Mental Health is the first policy report in a series being published throughout 2022 by the Coalition and relevant partners. The reports are aimed at maximising the contribution of targeted sport-based interventions to helping ‘level up’ communities facing disadvantage and deprivation and tackling deep-seated health and societal inequalities which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Calvert Trust announces new trustees
Louise Dunn, Judith Gate, Emily Flynn and Victoria Notman bring their expertise to the Trust, which also runs Calvert Reconnections
The Lake District Calvert Trust (LDCT), which runs brain injury rehabilitation centre Calvert Reconnections, has started 2022 by announcing the appointment of four new trustees.
Louise Dunn, Judith Gate, Emily Flynn and Victoria Notman will bring their respective expertise to supporting the further development of the charity and its vital services.
Louise Dunn is a communications consultant and academic with over 25 years’ experience of management and leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry and at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Charity.
Commenting on her appointment, Louise said: “As a Keswick resident, I’m delighted to be able to get involved with this extraordinary organisation, that has such a positive impact for people living with disabilities in our community and all over the UK.
“I am looking forward to learning more about how I can help the team and contributing to their exciting plans for the future.”
Judith Gate has extensive experience in the charity and public sectors including leading the volunteering and customer care functions for a national charity.
She currently leads a continuous improvement programme with a focus on delivering efficiency and improved customer experience through business process improvement and digital transformation.
Judith said: “I applied to be trustee because I wanted to use my skills to deliver as much positive impact as possible. As an outdoor enthusiast I feel a genuine connection to the Calvert Trust‘s mission of making outdoor activity accessible to everyone
“I am really excited to join the board and look forward to using my knowledge and experience to help support the Trust achieve its ambitions over the coming years.”
Emily Flynn has over 21 years’ experience as a military officer and communications-electronics engineer across a wide spectrum of business areas including: senior leadership/board-level management; digital optimisation; resource planning; engineering, operations and risk management; trusteeship; and mountaineering leadership.
Commenting on her appointment, Emily said: “I am delighted to become a trustee of the Lake District Calvert Trust.
“The military introduced me to the benefits of outdoor education as a means of expanding personal confidence and stretching comfort zones in a controlled environment. It also led me to become a mountaineer.
“I hope to be able to bring my previous experience as a leader, mountaineer, engineer and trustee to help the Calvert Trust
continue to deliver amazing outdoor education to its participants and to help it grow over the next few years.”
Victoria Notman is legal director at the employment team at Burnetts Solicitors in Carlisle and has over 20 years’ experience as an employment lawyer.
She also has a first-class honours degree in physiotherapy and experience in the rehabilitation and development of adults and young people with mild to severe physical and mental impairments and learning needs.
Victoria said: “I am looking forward to applying my knowledge and skills to become integrated into the fabric of the Trust to such a degree that all the experience I have to offer can really make a difference to the lives and happiness of those accessing Calvert Lakes and Calvert Reconnections.”
Welcoming the charity’s new trustees, Giles Mounsey-Heysham, chairman of the LDCT Trustees, said: “After a detailed recruitment process, we are delighted to welcome our new Trustees.
“Together they bring a wealth of skills, experience and shared passion to the Lake District Calvert Trust. We welcome their contributions moving forward.”
The Lake District Calvert Trust has been supporting people with disabilities from its specialist Calvert Lakes residential centre and accessible riding centre near Keswick in the Lake District for almost 45 years.
Calvert Lakes has grown from being the UK’s first dedicated activity centre for people with disabilities, to welcoming around 3,500 visitors to stay each year.
These include individuals, family groups, specialist schools, accessible sports clubs, disability charity groups, supported living organisations and care homes across the UK.
Last year, the charity also opened Calvert Reconnections, the UK’s first residential brain injury rehabilitation programme combining traditional clinical therapies with physical activity in the outdoors.
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