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More research needed on ways to prevent Alzheimer's, panel finds

More rigorous and long-term studies are needed before specific life style measures to prevent Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline can be recommended, according to an independent panel convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After reviewing medical literature and hearing speakers during an April 26-28 NIH State-of-the-Science Conference on Preventing Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Decline, the 15-member panel of clinical and scientific experts concluded that the existing evidence for drug, dietary, exercise, and other interventions is not yet sufficient to serve as the basis for clinical recommendations.

Other conclusions by the panel included the following: There remain important and formidable challenges in conducting research on Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline, particularly in the area of prevention. There are numerous ongoing or planned investigations which may offer promising new insights regarding the causes and prevention of these diseases. Cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease pose a significant burden not only on affected individuals, but also on their caregivers and society. Firm conclusions cannot be drawn about the association of modifiable risk factors with cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease. There is an absence of highly reliable consensus-based diagnostic criteria for cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease, and the available criteria have not been uniformly applied. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of pharmaceutical agents or dietary supplements to prevent or delay cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease. Ongoing studies may provide new insight. Large-scale, population-based studies and randomized controlled clinical trials are critically needed to investigate strategies to maintain cognitive function and to identify factors that may delay onset of Alzheimer's disease in those at risk and that may slow the progression of Alzheimer's among individuals already diagnosed with the disease.

The panel's final consensus statement can be found at NIA's ongoing Alzheimer's research program is actively investigating a variety of strategies to prevent or delay Alzheimer's and cognitive decline, including lifestyle strategies. You can find out more about the evidence thus far and what is being tested, including approaches like exercise and high blood pressure control, in the NIA booklet Can Alzheimer's Disease Be Prevented?