Use It or Lose It: Preventing Cognitive Decline

Cognitive Aging

man running on beach Changes in cognitive function, such as slow speed of information processing, are common in normal aging. However, each person is different and cognitive decline is not inevitable. In fact, many older adults appear to avoid cognitive decline into their ninth decade of life, and some even beyond. The best news of all is that some risk factors for cognitive decline may be manageable. Three types of cognitive decline with aging have been recognized:
  • Age-related changes in memory—mild memory impairment that can occur with normal aging. These people can do as well as younger patients on memory tests if they are given enough time.
  • Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—mild memory loss; signs include misplacing things, forgetting important events or appointments, and having difficulty coming up with the right words
  • Dementia (includes Alzheimer’s disease)—chronic, progressive, irreversible, global cognitive impairment and memory loss that are severe enough to affect daily functioning

Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline

A number of research studies have identified common risk factors for cognitive decline. Some of these risk factors include:
  • Increased age
  • Having a specific gene (APOE-e4) linked to Alzheimer's disease
  • Lack of mental activity
  • Substance use and abuse, including:
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Malnutrition
  • Chronic stress
  • Certain medical conditions, such as:
  • Lack of involvement in social activities
If you have a medical condition that may be causing your cognitive decline, talk to your doctor.

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