May 15 (UPI) -- Older adults may not be as worried about losing their memory as they should be, prompting concern from doctors that they won't seek help, a new study says.
Only 10 percent of people between ages 50 and 64 with a family history of dementia say they have talked to a doctor about preventing memory problems, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging published Wednesday at the University of Michigan. That's in addition to 5 percent of all older adults polled who say they would talk to a healthcare provider about treatment for dementia.
"While many people in this age range expressed concerns about losing memory, and say they take active steps to prevent it, most haven't sought advice from medical professionals, who could help them understand which steps actually have scientific evidence behind them," Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist at University of Michigan who assisted in designing the poll, said in a press release. "Many people may not realize they could help preserve brain health by managing their blood pressure and blood sugar, getting more physical activity and better sleep, and stopping smoking."
Of the 1,028 people who participated in the poll, about 56 percent of people weren't worried about developing dementia, 38 percent were somewhat worried and 6 percent were very worried.
About 73 percent of the people polled say they do puzzles and take supplements to combat cognitive decline. However, that might not do much to stave of cognitive decline, according to the researchers.
And just 10 percent of those polled that have a family history of dementia say they have talked to a doctor about preventing memory problems
"Staying mentally sharp is the number one concern for older adults," said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, which co-sponsored the poll. "According to the Global Council on Brain Health, people should concentrate on those things we know can improve brain health -- eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising and socializing with friends and family."
The National Institute on Aging estimates that about 5.5. million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease. The researchers of the new study estimate that fewer than 20 percent of people age 65 or older will actually lose cognitive ability due to Alzheimer's or dementia.
"For anyone who wants to stay as sharp as possible as they age, the evidence is clear: focus on your diet, your exercise, your sleep and your blood pressure," said Preeti Malani, a researcher at University of Michigan and poll director. "Don't focus on worrying about what might happen, or the products you can buy that promise to help, but rather focus on what you can do now that research has proven to help."