Study: Memory Decline Begins Earlier Than Expected.
Are you around 40-50 years old and thinking that you’re losing it? Unfortunately, that may be the case. A new study reported earlier this year found that memory, comprehension and reasoning can begin declining by age 45; previously it was assumed that decline started showing up after 60. And these changes may be a predictor of future dementia.
The study, which was reported on HealthDay.com, followed 5,200 men and 2,200 women over a ten- year period beginning in 1997. These participants were part of the Whitehall II cohort study, which began in 1985 and which followed a group of British civil servants who were between the ages of 45 and 70.
To assess the participants’ ongoing mental function, the researchers assessed them on memory, vocabulary, hearing and vision three times during the course of the study. The researchers found that over time, the participants’ memory, reasoning and vocabulary skills decline. Older participants experienced a more dramatic decline.
The researchers found that reasoning skills dropped by approximately four percent for men between the ages of 45-49 while women of this same age range had a five percent drop. Men who were between the ages of 65-70 experienced a 10 percent decrease in these skills while women in this same age range dropped 7 percent.
"Greater awareness of the fact that our cognitive status is not intact until deep old age might lead individuals to make changes in their lifestyle and improve [their] cardiovascular health, to reduce risk of adverse cognitive outcomes in old age," Dr. Archana Singh-Manoux, the study’s lead researcher and the research director at INSERM’S Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at Paris’s Paul-Brousse Hospital, told USA Today.
Dr. Singh-Manoux warned, “Previous research shows small differences in cognitive performance in earlier life to predict large differences in risk of dementia in later life.”
In order to protect the brain, researchers increasingly encourage people to follow a lifestyle that promotes heart health. This type of lifestyle helps people maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Embracing a healthy lifestyle may help slow some of this memory loss.
So what does that lifestyle look like? The Mayo Clinic recommends the following strategies (which don’t rely on medications):
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco (even if it’s smokeless, tobacco or low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes). This habit is a significant risk factor for developing heart disease because chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels and cause narrowing of the arteries. Being around secondhand smoke also can increase the risk. The good news is if you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease will decrease tremendously within one year.
- Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days. Physical activity helps you maintain your weight as well as helps you reduce the possibility that you’ll develop other conditions – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – that strain your heart. Exercise is also a great stress reducer.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet. Ideally, you’ll follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. To do so, you’ll opt for foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Plan to stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, as well as beans, other low-fat sources of protein and fish. You’ll also need to limit saturated fat and trans fat from your diet since they increase blood cholesterol levels that, in turn, raise your risk of coronary artery disease. Also, you can drink alcohol in moderation (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men).
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight that you put on in adulthood is mostly fat. This weight also increases your chance of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which all can increase your chance of heart disease. If you are overweight, realize that a small weight loss of 10 percent of your body weight can decrease your chances of having any of these conditions.
- Get regular health screenings to know what your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are. That way, you can take action if you need to.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Mayo Clinic. (N.D.). 5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease.
Reinberg, S., (2012). Mental decline can start at 45, study says. HealthDay.com