Looking for an extra boost of motivation to stick to your resolutions, whether it’s shedding weight, improving sleep, enhancing nutrition, or cutting back on alcohol? Well, here’s some good news – these efforts don’t just benefit your physical health; they also contribute to better brain health. Curious about your brain health score? Researchers have unveiled a new scorecard designed to motivate you to minimize the risks of dementia and stroke.
A recent international study led by researchers at the McCance Center for Brain Health at Massachusetts General Hospital introduces a handy tool called the Brain Care Score (BCS) card. It’s designed to make assessing your habits easy, highlighting what you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement. The ultimate prize? A healthier brain and a reduced risk of dementia and strokes.
Dr. Andrew Budson, a neurology lecturer at Harvard Medical School, notes that this user-friendly scorecard is a unique addition to the health landscape. While it consolidates well-known health factors, it’s the first of its kind to quantify how these factors may impact your future brain health.
In simpler terms, it’s like a health report card for your brain, helping you understand how your current habits might influence your brain’s well-being down the road. This innovative scale brings together familiar health insights in a fresh package, offering a practical way to gauge your brain health and take proactive steps to improve it
What’s Inside the Scoreboard: Unveiling Key Domains
The McCance Brain Care Scorecard encompasses 12 key domains that span physical health, lifestyle choices, and social-emotional well-being.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Meaning in Life
Each of these aspects is rated on a scale of 0, 1, or 2, contributing to a maximum total score of 21. A higher score indicates better brain care.
According to Dr. Budson, these factors not only influence the risk of dementia through strokes but are also integral to sustaining overall brain health. Healthy relationships and engagement in meaningful activities are emphasized as essential components for maintaining optimal brain structure and function.
What was the study about?
Published online in December 2023 in Frontiers of Neurology, the study included nearly 399,000 adults aged 40 to 69 (average age 57; 54% women) who shared health information with the UK Biobank.
Over about 12.5 years, participants noted 5,354 new cases of dementia and 7,259 strokes. The results showed that those with higher Brain Care Scores at the beginning had lower risks of developing dementia or strokes during the study.
These health issues impact many in the US. Dementia affects one in seven Americans, and it’s expected to triple by 2050. Additionally, over 795,000 people in the US experience a stroke each year, according to the CDC.
What were the study’s findings?
For every five-point increase in the BCS rating at the study’s commencement, there was a substantial decrease in the risks of dementia and stroke, and these effects varied across age groups:
Participants below 50 years old at the study’s outset had a 59% lower likelihood of developing dementia and a 48% lower chance of experiencing a stroke for every five-point increase in BCS.
Those aged 50 to 59 at the study’s initiation showed a 32% reduced risk of dementia and a 52% lowered risk of stroke for each five-point higher score on BCS.
However, the positive effects on brain health seemed to lessen for individuals aged 60 and above at the study’s beginning. In this group, there was only an 8% decrease in dementia odds and a 33% lower stroke risk for every five-point increase in BCS. The study’s authors speculated that some participants in this age bracket might already be in the early stages of dementia, a condition challenging to detect until it progresses.
Dr. Budson expressed confidence in the study’s findings, asserting that the BCS factors are well-known strategies that people can adopt to reduce their risk of stroke and dementia
What are the study’s limitations?
Dr. Budson points out a couple of limitations in the study. The UK Biobank didn’t gather all the components of the BCS in its dataset, specifically missing meaning-of-life questions. As a result, the scores ranged from 0 to 19 instead of the full 21. Dr. Budson acknowledges this as a practical limitation, highlighting that there haven’t been studies validating the recommended 21-point scale so far.
Additionally, the analysis only assessed participants’ scores at a single point in time, not longitudinally. Dr. Budson suggests that future research should explore whether individuals can reduce their risk of stroke and dementia by enhancing their BCS through sustained behavior and lifestyle changes.
How can you play this game at home?
While achieving better brain health is a significant reward of a higher score, it’s not the only advantage. Improving any aspect of the Brain Care Score (BCS) also contributes to our overall well-being.
“Enhancing these factors not only benefits the brain but also supports heart health and reduces the risk of cancer,” notes Dr. Budson. “Moreover, these improvements have a positive impact on psychological health, a crucial aspect of overall well-being.”
The straightforward breakdown of health factors in the scale allows for easy focus on tweaking one or two elements without feeling overwhelmed.
“For instance, if someone acknowledges that their nutrition isn’t perfect but isn’t ready to change their diet, that’s okay. They can choose to engage in more aerobic exercise, cut back on drinking, or prioritize getting the sleep their body needs,” explains Dr. Budson.
What changes could you make towards a better brain health?
If Dr. Budson had to pinpoint one factor for improving brain health, he would emphasize the importance of finding meaning in life. This means having a sense that your life has purpose. To achieve this, he recommends taking some quiet time for deep reflection on what you want your life’s purpose to be, regardless of whether you anticipate a long or short lifespan.
“Once you establish a purpose, you’ll have a motivation to delve into other aspects of the BCS scale. This exploration helps you discover ways to prolong your presence, remain competent and capable, and contribute towards fulfilling the meaning and purpose of your life,” he advises.
Check out our exclusive and a detailed article on dementia : https://vcurehealthcare.com/dementia-early-features-and-risk-population/
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