Background: The challenges of today’s society call for more knowledge about how to maintain all aspects of cognitive health, such as speed/attention, memory/learning, visuospatial ability, language, executive capacity and social cognition during the life course. Main text: Medical advances have improved treatments of numerous diseases, but the cognitive implications have not been sufficiently addressed. Disability induced by cognitive dysfunction is also a major issue in groups of patients not suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. Recent studies indicate that several negative lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of cognitive impairment, but intervention and prevention strategies have not been implemented. Disability due to cognitive failure among the workforce has become a major challenge. Globally, the changing aging pyramid results in increased prevalence of cognitive disorders, and the diversity of cultures influences the expression, manifestation and consequences of cognitive dysfunction. Conclusions: Major tasks in the field of cognitive medicine are basic neuroscience research to uncover diverse disease mechanisms, determinations of the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction, health-economical evaluations, and intervention studies. Raising awareness for cognitive medicine as a clinical topic would also highlight the importance of specialized health care units for an integrative approach to the treatment of cognitive dysfunctions.