It’s often said that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. Just as public health has worked to keep people physically healthy across the lifespan, public health can now help people stay cognitively healthy, too. An ever-growing evidence base shows that adopting certain healthy behaviors can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, promote brain health and protect cognition.

Primed for implementation: HBI Road Map

Action E-2 — Integrate the best available evidence about brain health and cognitive decline risk factors into existing health communications that promote health and chronic condition management for people across the life span.

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Cognitive decline — when changes in the brain affect the ability to think or remember — can interfere with a person’s ability to work, volunteer and engage socially, and may interrupt day-to-day activities, such as driving and managing one’s health. It is frequently one of the earliest noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To address this, public health practitioners can promote brain health at all ages to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
 
The growing scientific consensus* shows us that people — especially from a population perspective — can take certain steps to reduce their risk of cognitive decline. These healthy behaviors include:

  • Being physically active.
  • Being heart-healthy (this includes managing mid-life high blood pressure and diabetes as well as reducing obesity during mid-life).
  • Quitting smoking.

Additional evidence indicates that eating a healthy diet (such as the Mediterranean and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets) as well as engaging in rigorous cognitive activities (such as learning a new language) may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

To help the public health community reduce the risk of cognitive decline across a population, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed this topic-specific issue map — Accelerating Risk Reduction and Promoting Brain Health. It offers compelling data on the topic, a primer explaining the need for action, suggests related HBI Road Map actions, and provides case studies to demonstrate successful implementation.

*Large, population-based research indicates these healthy behaviors lower the risk of cognitive decline. These studies include:

State success: Promoting brain health in South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control implemented a full-fledged multi-media campaign focused on brain health and reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Read the case study to learn more and or visit the Take Brain Health to Heart website.

State-specific action you can take

Communities are taking public health action against Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Find out how the disease impacts your state and what you can do to make Alzheimer's the next public health success story.

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Featured Resources

Alzheimer's Association & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Accelerating Risk Reduction and Promoting Brain Health - Healthy Brain Initiative Issue Map
The Lancet Commission Dementia prevention, intervention, and care
Alzheimer's Association Risk Reduction Messaging for Health Education
Alzheimer's Association Summary of the evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia: A population-based perspective
Alzheimer's Association Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research
Department of Health and Human Services alzheimers.gov
Health Resources and Services Administration Training Curriculum: Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias
National Institutes of Health Mind Your Risks

 
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AL Alabama Department of Public Health Alabama Department of Public Health disseminated BRFSS information on cognitive decline to different programs within the department and to shared the materials at health fairs, conferences, and other events in June 2018, in recognition of Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month.
AZ Maricopa County Public Health Department Maricopa County Public Health Dept.—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, Banner Health Institute, and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
CA California Department of Public Health Raised awareness of new guidelines among CDPH stakeholders with a short article in the CDPH quarterly newsletter
CA Department of Public Health California Department of Public Health convened stakeholder meeting (including health plans, health care providers, researchers, and community organizations) to update the Guideline for Alzheimer’s Disease Management (via an NACDD grant)
CA Department of Public Health California Department of Public Health developed infographic flyers for the public about protecting brain health.
CA Los Angeles County Department. of Public Health Los Angeles County Department of Public Health—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive health issues.
FL Florida Department of Health Educated clinicians and researchers about cognitive health, early detection of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, dementia care, and caregiving at the Florida Health Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Research Symposium.
FL Florida Department of Health Enhanced knowledge of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, caregiving, and community resources at the Symposium through sessions for caregivers and the general public.
GA City of Atlanta Created ministerial alliance on Alzheimer’s and other dementias to work with state government to promote awareness in the African-American community through faith-based organizations.
KS Kansas Department of Health and Environment Educated health care providers on the importance of early detection and diagnosis, with a focus on rural providers.
KS Kansas Department of Health and Environment Increased public awareness of risk reduction messages to enhance early detection and reduce stigma via a partnership with the Kansas State Extension Office; trained almost 50 Extension Officers to educate Kansans about Alzheimer’s and brain health in counties across the state.
LA Department of Health Louisiana Department of Health distributed materials about brain health, advance financial planning, and advanced care planning (including brochures from the Alzheimer’s Association Louisiana Chapter) at various community events.
LA East New Orleans Health District East New Orleans Health District--—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
MA Department of Public Health Massachusetts Department of Public Health—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
MD Maryland Department of Health The Department of Health promoted a cognitive decline infographic (from BRFSS data) and recorded webinar in its Chronic Disease Connections newsletter in July 2017.
MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene invited the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Maryland Chapter policy director to brief the Maryland Advisory Council on Heart Disease and Stroke on the heart-brain connection. (July 2016)
MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
ME Maine Department of Health and Suman Services Published county-specific health profiles including metrics on subjective cognitive decline.
ME Department of Health and Human Services Developed GLBT-inclusive messaging for public awareness campaigns.
ME Maine Public Health Association Maine Public Health Association devoted an issue of its e-newsletter to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
MN Minnesota Department of Health Developed a framework to identify high-risk communities with data analyses, help prioritize resources, and expand cognitive health partnerships throughout the health department.
MN Minnesota Department of Health Informed efforts to make communities more supportive of people living with dementia and their caregivers by integrating cognitive and caregiver surveillance data and related resources into county fact sheets; MDH prioritized counties that have a high proportion of at-risk older adults.
MN Department of Health With legislative support, Minnesota Department of Health created new program focused on providing outreach and dementia education to African-Americans, African-born residents, and Asian and Hispanic populations.
MO Missouri Department of Health and Social Services Enhanced public awareness of cognitive health and dementia among African Americans in the southeast region of Missouri by conducting a multi-faceted social marketing campaign that provides culturally appropriate messaging and information on risks, early diagnosis, treatment, and community resources.
MO Missouri Department of Health and Social Services Expand DHSS efforts on Alzheimer’s and other dementias as public health issues by incorporating cognition and caregiving into the State Health Improvement Plan, Coordinated Chronic Disease Plan, and Healthy Aging Plan.
MO Missouri Department of Health and Social Services Promoted cognitive assessments and early diagnosis in partnership with Washington University and the existing Community Health Worker Advisory Body through incorporation of these topics into existing community health worker programs for diabetes, cardiovascular health, and women’s health.
MS State Department of Health Completed assessment of barriers, which if altered, would facilitate the integration of brain health into chronic disease programs. Results will help guide the development of introductory materials for public health professionals and future work.
NJ New Jersey Department of Health Department of Health, Office of Minority and Multicultural Health partnered with the Alzheimer's Association to conduct a brain health event in conjunction with African-American Brain Health Initiative (AABHI) and Rutgers University-Newark. AABHI promoted healthy aging among older African Americans at the Newark Classic Car Show (April 2017) by teaching older men about brain health, potential ways to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and how to participate in aging research at RU-Newark.
NM New Mexico Department of Health Educated the public about ways to protect brain health by developing three PSAs based on the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Ways to Love Your Brain campaign; PSAs began airing on local TV station in fall 2017 and have been adapted for other media markets.
NM Department of Health New Mexico Department of Health created and disseminated a notice to state and local public health professionals encouraging use of ACL’s community education resources on brain health.
NM Department of Health New Mexico Department of Public Health’s September 2016 Employee Wellness newsletter (sent to 3,200 state employees) focused on healthy aging. It included basic information on education and support for family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias; the link between healthy lifestyle and brain health, with encouragement to use the ACL Brain Health Resource toolkit; and advance care planning (general).
NV Southern Nevada Health District The Southern Nevada Health District with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, and potentially other organizations to host a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
NY New York State Department of Health New York State Department of Health, through its partnership with the University of Albany, conducted an online training for health care providers: Determining Caregiver Needs and Well Being.
OK Oklahoma County Health Department Included Alzheimer's in analysis of all-cause mortality and published the results in the Oklahoma City-County Wellness Score 2017 report.
OR Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Oregon To promote early detection of Alzheimer’s disease among Hispanic populations, the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Oregon adapted an English-language fotonovela -- an educational tool with photos and a story narrative -- for Spanish-language communities. Involvement of promotoras enhanced cultural relevance. The Alzheimer's Association, Oregon Chapter, the Oregon Health Authority, and many other partners now promote and distribute the fotonovela to Spanish-speaking communities, in part through public health networks.
SC Department of Health and Environmental Control Dept. of Health and Environmental Control developed a ‘Take Brain Health to Heart’ webpage with information, tools, and other resources about brain health. As part of the state’s brain health campaign, the department and partners developed a set of PSAs to promote the new webpage and educate the public.
SC Department of Health and Environmental Control South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is integrating messages about brain health into existing health education campaigns.
TN Tennessee Department of Health Educated public health professionals about cognitive health, health indicators, diagnosis, and community resources via an issue brief developed from original data analyses and conducted a live training webinar to discuss findings and implications for public health practice.
TX Dallas County Public Health Department Adapted and promoted a public service announcement to educate the public about brain health and ways to protect cognition.
TX Harris County Public Health Department Adapted and promoted a public service announcement to educate the public about brain health and ways to protect cognition.
UT Department of Health Utah Department of Health posted an Alzheimer’s Association anti-smoking message on the Facebook page of its Quitline campaign.
VA Virginia Department of Health Virginia Department of Health added weblinks to the department's website on Alzheimer's, dementia, and brain health
VA Virginia Department of Health Virginia Department of Health, Office of Health Equity arranged for the Greater Richmond Alzheimer's Association Chapter to brief the Virginia Partners in Prayer & Prevention (Virginia P3, an evolution of the Congregations for Million Hearts program) program partners. As a result, P3 program invited the Alzheimer's Association to participate in and provide information at tables at P3 Community Health Champions' Health and Wellness events across the state later that year.
VA Petersburg/Crater Health District The district—with the regional chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, Virginia Commonwealth University, and potentially other organizations—held a community educational event that raised African Americans’ awareness of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive health issues.
VT Department of Health Tobacco cessation campaign – 802Quits – trained health care providers about dementia risk and smoking and provided a link to WHO’s tobacco and dementia brief.
WA Washington State Department of Health Educated African Americans about brain health by partnering with the Center for MultiCultural Health in Seattle; the Center identified African American churches as promising venues to speak about brain health and distribute hand fans with culturally-appropriate messages that promote brain health.
WA State Department of Health With the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, the Washington State Department of Health tested University of Pennsylvania media messages with Asian American adults who may have concerns about changes in their aging parents’ memory or cognition.