Early intervention for cognitive decline: is there a role for multiple medical or behavioural interventions?

Early Interv Psychiatry. 2009 Feb;3(1):19-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7893.2008.00102.x.


Aim: Early medical or behavioural intervention to slow cognitive decline might be a viable strategy for reducing disability and rates of institutional care in older persons. This paper details the published work supporting cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between vascular risk factors, depressive symptoms and progressive cognitive decline. Evidence for the beneficial effects of providing relevant interventions is assessed.

Methods: Relevant published work from the areas of dementia research, 'vascular depression' and the cognitive benefits that might result from treating vascular risk factors, managing depression or promoting nutrition, cognitive or physical exercise was ascertained from electronic database searches and recent reviews of key areas.

Results: The existing published work does not provide many examples of early intervention strategies that target vascular strategies or active treatment of depression to reduce the rate of cognitive decline. Most studies have major limitations including the evaluation of only single-risk-factor interventions, the observational designs and the inadequate measurement of cognition. An optimal early intervention strategy might be to target multiple risk factors within relevant experimental or health service frameworks.

Conclusions: Early identification and multifaceted reduction of vascular risk factors, active management of depression, engagement in cognitive activity and physical exercise and promotion of better nutrition might together help to slow some forms of cognitive decline or progression to dementia. This health services approach now requires systematic evaluation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy
  • Dementia / diagnosis
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors