Cognitive testing of elderly could help detect medical problems

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Researchers recommend cognitive tests become standard part of medical exams

Shari Bassuk, research fellow in the Department of Health and Social Behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues have found that even mild impairments in areas such as memory and orientation were strongly predictive of mortality among people under the age of 80 years old. “There are major implications for these findings for people in their 60s and 70s because cognitive change is so predictive of mortality in the short term,” said Bassuk. The researchers found that cognitive declines in people between the ages of 65 and 80 have a marked impact on survival. The more rapid the decline, the greater the impact. That is why Bassuk would like to see people over the age of 65 screened regularly with cognitive tests that would become a standard part of medical exams, just like blood pressure and weight checks.