The big news this week on the brain front is the release of a medical doctor's in-home mental test to help determine if someone over the age of 50 may be cognitively impaired.
The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE) is designed to detect early signs of cognitive, memory or thinking impairments. Those who miss 6 or more questions on one of four forms of the test are instructed to bring the results into their primary care physician.
One reason this test is being given so much media attention is because it originates with Ohio State Univeristy Medical Center's director of cognitive neurology division, Douglas Scharre, M.D.
"What we found was the SAGE self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing," he said in a prepared statement. "If we can catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."
Surely among the pluses is the test itself - requiring just pen and paper (and the Internet if you wish to download it from online). You then bring the results to your health care provider for evaluation. There is no answer sheet provided.
The 22 questions range from "What is today's date?" to "How many nickels are in 60 cents?" and involved different forms of thought. By not knowing if you passed or failed, more people may make an appointment with their doctor on this subject instead of tacking it on to another scheduled appointment.
According to the Web site: "It is normal to experience some memory loss and to take longer to recall events as you age. But if the changes you are experiencing are worrying you or others around you, SAGE can be a helpful tool to assess if further evaluation is necessary.
Unfortunately, many people do not seek help for these kinds of symptoms until they have experienced them for several years. There are many treatable causes of cognitive and thinking loss, and in some cases, medications or other treatments can be very effective-especially if provided when symptoms first begin."
That may be one of the biggest benefits of SAGE and other self-administered tests to follow. Most people wait years - until someone else urges them to see a doctor about their forgetfulness or behavior - to seek help for a memory impairment. By then the damage may be irreversable (depending, of course, on the cause).
Just as the "cure" for cancers will not be a pill or a procedure but a permanent change in lifestyle to reduce risks and detect cellular mutatiions and tumors earlier, so too with brain health does it make a big difference if you do things in your everyday life to improve your odds of a brain healthy, long life.
Remember to eat well, exercise daily, not watching too much television (and instead read! read! read! either by book or by CDs), socialize and adopt healthy strategies for dealing with serious stress and depression.
You can also dowload the test.