Promoting Brain Health: Libraries’ Important Role
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and one in ten people aged 65 or older has Alzheimer’s. Since the youngest Baby Boomers — a generation that accounts for a substantial portion of the world’s population — are now in their sixties, that number could rise as high as 16 million by 2050.
Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes the threat of Alzheimer’s and includes this condition on its list of the ten leading causes of death, many people aren’t as familiar with it as they are with others that get more coverage in everything from newscasts to doctor’s warnings. Read on for more insight into how Alzheimer’s compares to three other widely recognized leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Alzheimer’s Gains on Heart Disease
In 2015, almost 634,000 people died from heart disease. Close to 111,000 died from Alzheimer’s, making it clear why heart disease currently outranks Alzheimer’s on the CDC’s list of leading causes of death. However, it won’t be long before Alzheimer’s death toll catches up: Since 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 89%.
Breast Cancer’s Down, Alzheimer’s is Up
Every year, cancer screening technology advances and far-reaching public health campaigns drive participation in this preventative care. Because it’s becoming easier to detect cancers at an earlier stage, cancer rates have been decreasing since the 1980s.
Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, isn’t seeing the same positive trend. Not only does Alzheimer’s currently kill more people than breast cancer, but it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
The Close Connection Between Alzheimer’s and Stroke
Over 140,000 people died from strokes in 2015. That’s about 30,000 more than those who died from Alzheimer’s that same year. What’s most concerning: these two leading causes of death may be connected. “Believe it or not, Alzheimer’s disease is a key cause of hemorrhagic stroke,” said Dr. Sandra Black, an internationally renowned stroke expert. It’s all related to a buildup of amyloid-beta peptide plaque, which can cause brain damage if the body creates too much amyloid and the brain can’t clear it away. “Amyloid is emerging as a major cause of brain hemorrhage in older people,” shared Dr. Black.
Libraries’ Role in Promoting Brain Health — It’s an Important One
These statistics may sound grim, but as a librarian, you are in the perfect position to make a difference!
While there is no “magic bullet” to prevent Alzheimer’s; in late June, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report on steps proactive consumers can take to reduce the risks associated with normal cognitive aging. They made three recommendations for interventions:
- cognitive training
- blood pressure management for people with hypertension
- increased physical activity
When it came to cognitive training, the National Academies report pointed to the speed of processing training used in a classroom setting in the ACTIVE Study. That speed of processing training is exclusively available through BrainHQ™.
You can help your community make brain training a priority by joining the hundreds of public libraries that offer science-driven, research-backed BrainHQ as one of their library’s many services. BrainHQ is an online brain-training system based on 30 years of research in neurological science and related medicine. It features 29 rigorous online exercises focused on attention, brain speed, memory, people skills, navigation, and intelligence.
How can you feel comfortable that it works? More than 100 published scientific papers show the benefits of BrainHQ, which was designed by an international team of neuroscientists led by Dr. Michael Merzenich. You may recognize Dr. Merzenich’s name from his impressive resume: He’s a professor emeritus at UCSF, has been honored by each of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, was a co-inventor of the cochlear implant, and is a Kavli Laureate in Neuroscience.
BrainHQ exercises and assessments have shown benefits in more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on studies of healthy older adults, including improvements in:
- standard measures of cognition (e.g., speed of processing, attention, memory executive function)
- standard measures of quality of life (e.g., depressive symptoms, feelings of control, health-related quality of life, functional independence)
- real-world activities (e.g., balance, gait, driving safety, everyday cognition)
As more and more evidence of BrainHQ’s effectiveness is collected, the press increasingly takes notice. Health correspondent Dr. Max Gomez discusses BrainHQ in this recent segment from CBS New York:
There’s no need to wait to make your library the gym for brain health! Get started today with a free BrainHQ trial.