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St. Barnabas, neurosurgeon team to battle dementia

| Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, 9:01 p.m.

Neurosurgeon Joe Maroon of Sewickley practices what he preaches to stay mentally sharp.

At 70, Maroon exercises at least one hour per day and eats wild-caught, Alaskan salmon three or four days per week.

Maroon also performs surgery two or three days per week.

“Dementia is a horrible problem that occurs in most people as we age, and most people think there's nothing you can do to prevent it, and that's the fallacy,” said Maroon, team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“There are many things that we know we can do to slow down, obviate or even prevent dementia,” Maroon said.

Maroon's latest projects include teaming with the Richland-based St. Barnabas Health System to take the offensive against senility through diet and stress management.

“I'm going to be working with the dietary staff, with the physicians and people there to help them develop programs for preventing dementia,” Maroon said. “What Mr. Day (St. Barnabas Health System CEO William Day) asked me to do is help them initiate a brain-health program.

“I'm not going to be consulting patients there on a personal basis,” Maroon said. “I'll be working to develop the programs that will be instituted with the patients.”

Maroon also expects to learn something in the process.

“It's an opportunity to do research,” he said. “We intend to do some research on cognitive testing.

“I've had a long interest in brain function — as a neurosurgeon — and what happens in traumatic injury patients, particularly sports-related injuries,” Maroon said,

“As people get older, you lose mental function. You lose cognition — the ability to process information.”

Maroon and his team were scheduled to meet Jan. 26 with St. Barnabas department managers to kick off the brain-health program.

“We're absolutely thrilled about this new partnership,” said Robin Taylor, St. Barnabas spokeswoman.

“We think this is going to go a long way to helping people live longer, healthier lives.”

St. Barnabas residents will learn about the new program at informal meetings next month, Taylor said.

“Dr. Maroon's assistant, Jeff Bost, is meeting weekly with our clinical staff to develop the program,” Taylor said.

Maroon, also a professor, is vice chairman of the University Of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery and the Heindl scholar in neuroscience at Pitt.

Maroon co-developed the widely used ImPACT — Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing — system of tools for measuring brain function in children and athletes after they experience a concussion.

Maroon also is the author of six books, including “Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory” and “The Longevity Factor: How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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