From Our Experts: Cognitive Decline, Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke, and Caregiving: A Related Triad

Were you aware that one in nine adults aged 45 years and older report subjective cognitive decline? Or are you even aware of the term, “subjective cognitive decline”? Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) is the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss. It is a form of cognitive impairment, and one of the earliest noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) can lead to decreased cognitive function or SCD. One in five adults aged 45 years and older diagnosed with CHD, or a stroke, or both report SCD. Both SCD and coronary heart disease and stroke can impact effective chronic disease self-management and the successfulness of activities of daily living. This lessening ability to effectively self-manage conditions and daily living may lead to the need for a caregiver.

Almost one in four adults, mostly women, ages 45 to 64 years are caregivers. Caregivers are at increased risk for having multiple chronic diseases as they may neglect their own personal health needs while providing care to others. More than one third of caregivers report having two or more chronic diseases, and 14.4% reported having coronary heart disease or having had a stroke.

The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and CDC’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging Program are collaborating on the above issues to increase awareness and stimulate public health action by developing a series of five briefs. These briefs are based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) with data aggregated for years 2015-2017. The data are examined in two age groups (adults aged 45-64 years and aged 65 years and older) as well as by sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, chronic disease status, and other demographic characteristics. The three briefs are formatted in the same style and address a number of common themes. Each brief ends with a public health call to action. To date, three briefs are published and reside on the Healthy Aging pages of NACDD’s and CDC’s websites: Subjective Cognitive Decline, Caregiving and Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke. Start implementing one or more of these calls to action in your community