by Lisa Feiner
Aging gracefully often means staying as young-looking as possible. Annual doctor visits check the blood, heart, reflexes and medications. Yet, attention is rarely given to our brains unless we experience memory problems. It should go without saying that aging gracefully does not include developing dementia.
Statistics show there is good reason to focus on brain health. The World Health Organization estimates the number of people living with dementia worldwide to be 47 million and projects that number to almost triple by 2050. By age 65, Americans have a 12 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a specific type of dementia, and by age 85, that number increases to almost 50 percent.
The good news is that dementia is not a natural part of aging—it often has specific causes that can be addressed, treated and reversed, sometimes completely. The brain, like all organs, can be monitored and checked over the course of our lives. A variety of diagnostics, from eye exams to inflammation markers in the blood, can be used to identify an underlying issue years before signs of memory loss become apparent.