Age-related declines in cognitive health can be normal, but they don’t have to be a burden. Taking steps to maintain or improve cognitive health while aging is important, and knowing more about what influences the brain and cognition will also help.
Aside from diseases of the brain that impact cognitive health, levels of mental ability gradually change with age. Typical changes in mental ability due to aging can include difficulties in multitasking, paying attention or focusing for extended periods of time, finding it hard to recall a particular word or fact, or remembering minor chores or facts related to daily life. Everything from inherited genes to lifestyle and dietary choices can influence how people age mentally. Therefore, making changes in lifestyle or diet to improve certain outcomes is an important step in protecting cognitive decline while aging.
There are several things that can be done to protect or even improve cognitive health. A healthy diet and sufficient amount of exercise have both been linked by numerous studies to slower cognitive decline.1,2,3 Finally, social interactions and the regular pursuit of new knowledge or skills may act as buffers to protect against age-related decline.4*
* Causes of cognitive decline are not all-inclusive; other factors may be involved.
1Tangney CC, Li H, Wang Y, Barnes L, Schneider JA, Bennett DA, Morris MC. Relation of DASH- and Mediterranean-like dietary patterns to cognitive decline in older persons. Neurology. 2014 Oct 14;83(16):1410-6.
2Alosco ML, Spitznagel MB, Cohen R, Sweet LH, Josephson R, Hughes J, Rosneck J, Gunstad J. Cardiac rehabilitation is associated with lasting improvements in cognitive function in older adults with heart failure. Acta Cardiol. 2014 Aug;69(4):407-14.
3Yau SY, Gil-Mohapel J, Christie BR, So KF. Physical exercise-induced adult neurogenesis: a good strategy to prevent cognitive decline in eurodegenerative diseases? Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:403120. doi: 10.1155/2014/403120. Epub 2014 Apr 9.
4Gow AJ, Mortensen EL, Avlund K. Activity participation and cognitive aging from age 50 to 80 in the glostrup 1914 cohort. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012