LOSS OF BRAIN FUNCTIONING MAY START AS YOUNG AS 45 YEARS OLD
For some time now, the consensus has been that cognitive decline begins in your 60s – cognitive decline includes a reduction in your memory, reasoning ability and comprehension skills. Well a new study in the British Medical Journal is now challenging that notion, saying that the gradual loss of brain functioning begins as early as age 45.
In a study of more than 7,000 European civil servants over a 10 year follow-up period, researchers found that the rate of cognitive decline generally gets worse as you get older, but the youngest study subjects still showed some loss of functioning. For example, when looking at mental reasoning the volunteers who started out in the 45 to 49 year old age group showed a 3.6% decline, whereas the 65 to 70 year old volunteers experienced a 7.4% to 9.6% decline. The researchers say this is an important finding because prevention efforts to keep the brain healthy should be initiated earlier in life, likely in middle age.
Unfortunately this piece of research doesn’t tell us WHY this decline in brain function happens so early, so more research will be needed there. What we do know is that keeping your brain healthy can lessen the impact of brain degeneration – you can protect your brain by:
- minimizing your cardiac risk factors (maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure and blood cholesterol),
- using your brain – keep learning, reading, socializing and challenging your mind
- avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- quit smoking
- get off the couch and get active
But if you’re engaging in higher-risk activities like hockey, football or cycling, don’t forget to protect your brain by wearing a helmet.
For a complete list of strategies for brain health, see: http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/About-the-brain/Brain-health