This month’s expert is Laura Baker, PhD, Wake Forest School of Medicine and lead principal investigator on U.S. POINTER.
Dear Dr. Baker,
My dad had dementia. Although I’m very healthy now, I was really looking forward to participating in the big prevention study I’ve been hearing about. I was disappointed to learn that I’m “too healthy” to participate. Why do you need to study people who have health issues?
I’m so glad you’re interested in participating in research. I believe you are referring to the U.S. POINTER study, a huge effort to study the effect of lifestyle changes on protecting brain health and preventing cognitive decline and dementia.
You’re correct that the U.S. POINTER study has certain entry requirements. In general, they are looking for people who may be at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia in the future, such as those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, and those who have generally a sedentary lifestyle, meaning they don’t do much in terms of exercise other than perhaps walking the dog or light gardening.
These entry requirements are important so that people who have ‘room for improvement’ in heart health and in physical activity are enrolled in the trial. The good news is that healthy individuals like yourself do not have as much room for improvement, so the intervention may not be as effective for you. The bad news though is that you cannot participate in the trial. You can, however, continue to make healthy choices about your diet, your physical activity, and your leisure time activities that provide social and intellectual challenge on a regular basis.
Although you cannot participate, you can help by continuing to support and advocate for a healthy lifestyle to prevent cognitive decline and hopefully protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. U.S. POINTER will hopefully pave the way for similar community-based prevention programs to protect brain health in Americans across the U.S.
But don’t despair! There are many other studies in need of healthy participants – ranging from clinical trials of investigational drugs to online surveys. Take a look at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry’s Find a Study page for lots of great ways you can help!