Term: Cognitive Health
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Description:
When people think about staying fit, they generally think from the neck down. But the health of your brain plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, playing — and even sleeping.
The good news is that emerging evidence suggests there are steps you can take to help keep your brain healthier as you age. These steps might also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
  • Stay physically active
  • Adopt a brain healthy diet
  • Remain socially active
  • Stay mentally active

The lack of cognitive health—from mild cognitive decline to dementia—can have profound implications for an individual’s health and well-being. Older adults and others experiencing cognitive decline may be unable to care for themselves or conduct necessary activities of daily living, such as meal preparation and money management. Limitations with the ability to effectively manage medications and existing medical conditions are particular concerns when an individual is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. If cognitive decline can be prevented or better treated, lives of many older adults can be improved.

Opportunities for maintaining cognitive health are growing as public health professionals gain a better understanding of cognitive decline risk factors. The public health community should embrace cognitive health as a priority, invest in its promotion, and enhance our ability to move scientific discoveries rapidly into public health practice.

Many different video games are capable of helping people boost cognitive health. One of the most popular ways is with the Nintendo Wii. Being active while playing the Nintendo Wii can assist in weight loss, improving balance, improving attentiveness and the ability to process visual information. Playing an action packed video game can help adults improve their vision by strengthening their contrast sensitivity. Contrast sensitivity by definition, is "the ability to notice even minor changes in shades of grey against a uniform background." Improving ones contrast sensitivity is very beneficial in situations such as night driving or driving in poor visibility.

Many doctors and experts believe they are on the edge of something big when it comes to the development of cognitive health via video games. It still hasn't been determined how much is needed, but it has been determined that it is very possible video games will be used in the treatment of patients suffering from certain illnesses like PTSD and depression. Doctors also agree that more time and money should be spent to accelerate the research done in the medical gaming field.

Considerations:

Cognitive health is heavily influenced by society, culture, and other variables. A determination of cognitive health will be heavily influenced by these factors. This is especially true for those who are afflicted with mental illnesses. Some communities in the United States may attach a strong stigma to mental illnesses whereas other communities may not. It's important to remove the patient from influences such as this so that they're able to receive the treatment that they deserve.

Mental health professionals are attempting to popularize mental health checkups. This is being done in an attempt to raise awareness to the importance of maintaining cognitive health.

Treatment:

Physical fitness, an enriching diet, an active social life, and mental stimulation are imperative to maintaining cognitive health. The most effective front for cognitive health exists within the actions of a person. It's important for patients to remember that examinations of their health should not be based solely on their physical health. A full examination should be completed on their mental well-being at intervals determined by their physician.

Physicians can help those who are unsure of the status of their cognitive health. Psychiatrists and psychologists can take information given to them by patients and make a determination. A lack of concentration, for instance, may be indicative of depression. Furthermore, a physician can help with determining the severity, duration, and cause of a mental illness.

The course of treatment should always address the needs of their patient. It's becoming increasingly common for patients to stray away from talk-based therapy. This may not work for all patients. Psychiatry is effective in determining the types of medication that the patient may need, but it may leave the patient feeling unfulfilled.

Applications:
This technology would be used to help individuals improve eye sight, balance, memory, attentiveness.

Web Resources:
USA Today - Vision
iHealthBeat - Cognitive Health
USA Today - Brain Games
www.alz.org

Related Terminology:
Brain Games
Brain Age
Fitness Games
Axons - These are the long fibers extending from the brain cells (neurons) that carry the output (an electrical nerve impulse) to other neurons. They can be up to a meter long. There is just one axon per neuron, but axons can subdivide to connect with many dendrites.
Dendrites - These are the strand-like fibers emanating from the neuron. Similar to spider webs or cracks in a wall, they are receptor sites for axons. Each cell usually has many, many dendrites.
Brain stem - Located at the top of the spinal cord, it links the lower brain with the middle of the brain and cerebral hemispheres.

Citations/References:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-04-01-video-games-vision_N.htm
http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2009/6/15/experts-discuss-how-computer-games-can-boost-cognitive-health.aspx
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-06-14-braingames_N.htm
http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_brain_health_maintain_your_brain.asp
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/your-money/the-importance-of-regular-mental-health-checkups.html?_r=0
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/health/policy/06doctors.html?pagewanted=all

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