Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health

There is a 10–20-year window of opportunity in midlife, during which we may be able to reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease before signs and symptoms appear. It may also be possible to delay the progression of signs and symptoms that mark the onset of the clinical phase. Most of people are unaware of this. The report that was launched at the European Health Forum Gastein conference on 3 October presents a set of recommendations in the area of these ‘neurodegenerative’ diseases.

It focuses on actions in the field of policy, clinical setting and research as well as on impact and socioeconomic burden of these disorders. The report presents the course of neurodegeneration and discusses its risk factors. It looks closer at strategies to identify people at risk and possible diagnostic tools the management following neurodegenerative disease diagnosis including specialist care and treatments. It also zooms in on various types of prevention strategies to limit the impact of neurodegenerative diseases and ways that will hopefully help to avert the future crisis.

With this report, the experts call for coordinated public education and research programmes to avert a brain disease crisis. The campaign should support existing health promotion work by emphasising that “what is good for the heart is generally good for the brain,” they urge. People need to understand the risk factors that can affect their brain health and what can be done to maintain it and to help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by exercising, keeping socially active, eating healthy food, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active.

Read the full report published by the Oxford Health Policy Forum