Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Daivd Faust

Abstract

The promotion of brain health is often perceived through an illness model, as research tends to focus on neurodegenerative disease risk reduction. However, research indicates that healthy individuals can potentially improve their cognitive performance through the adoption of health-promoting behaviors such as diet, exercise, and the management of cerebrovascular risk factors. There remains a need for validated instruments measuring the public's perceptions about cognitive health, a need this study addressed by further refining a quantitative measure of brain health knowledge and beliefs, the Brain Health Perceptions Questionnaire (BHPQ). Principal Components Analysis resulted in a 23-item questionnaire composed of five subscales (Diet, Exercise, Type 2 Diabetes, Blood Pressure/Cholesterol, and Weight). Further analyses explored demographic group differences in levels of cardiovascular knowledge and brain health perceptions, and investigated the relationship between health behavior beliefs and self-efficacy. Analyses indicated that age is associated with level of cardiovascular health knowledge, but not with awareness of the link between lifestyle factors and brain health. Further, there appears to be a positive association between health behavior self-efficacy and knowledge of brain health; an association not demonstrated with cardiovascular health knowledge. These results suggest that there is a distinct relationship between confidence in one's ability to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors and one's belief that such behaviors can improve overall brain health. Knowledge of such beliefs may inform clinical interventions and social policy, with the aim of reducing healthcare demand by supporting brain health across the lifespan.

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