With life spans increasing, it’s time to discard a one-size-fits-all approach to brain health. So say a group of researchers who propose a new, personalized approach to helping patients thrive cognitively, longer.
Researchers and healthcare providers tend to look at the individual factors that may contribute to age-related cognitive decline, such as chronic stress and cardiovascular disease. Instead, researcher Lee Ryan, Ph.D., and her team advocate for a precision medicine model that takes into account the variability in each person’s genes, environment and lifestyle.
The new model, outlined in a paper published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, targets three key areas: broad risk categories, such as cardiovascular health; brain drivers, which are the biological mechanisms that affect the brain; and genetic variants. The researchers foresee a day when these elements are captured in a chart or even an app that clinicians can use to create individualized care plans for their patients.
Matching cognitive health with lifespan could “decrease hospitalization time, extend independent living, improve productivity and quality of life, and decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease,” Ryan wrote.
Aging and the factors that influence brain health over time are “incredibly complex,” she added in a statement. “Everyone has different risk factors and different environmental contexts, and layered on top of that are individual differences in genetics. You have to really pull all of those things together to predict who is going to age which way. There’s not just one way of aging.”