As people age, their memory and cognitive skills may decline due to aging in normal and pathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. This impacts daily life activities, including recognition of familiar people, remembering details and information, and complex reasoning and creativity. Cognitive decline can also affect physical health, as problems in cognition often go along with poorer health outcomes such as increased risk of falls, more severe and longer-lasting illnesses, and increased risk of disability and death.
What Is Cognition?
Cognition is an umbrella term for various mental processes including memory, attention, problem-solving and decision-making. It is the set of processes that enable the acquisition, storage and retrieval of information, the recognition of patterns, the formation of concepts and the identification of relationships between these concepts. Cognitive changes with age can cause difficulties in everyday activities, such as remembering appointments or writing a grocery list.
How Does Age Impact Cognition?
Age-related changes in cognition can start in our 20s and 30s, which means you may already be experiencing them. Generally, older adults have slower decision-making and reaction time, and greater difficulty with complex tasks. Cognitive decline has been associated with changes in brain structure and function, and with changes in lifestyle, health and behavior.
The Role Of Mental Activity
Mental activity such as reading and learning have been associated with better cognitive functioning in older adults, as well as with a slower rate of decline. In addition, being socially active and engaging in leisure activities can help to maintain mental health. Exercise is another important factor: it helps to keep the brain young and improve cognitive function.
The Impact On Physical Health
Cognitive decline can contribute to physical health problems, particularly delays in the diagnosis of medical conditions. Elderly people may forget to take their medications or fail to comprehend the instructions for taking them. Poor decision-making resulting from cognitive decline can also lead to accidents and injury.
Diet, exercise and social involvement are key components of keeping our brains healthy and agile. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of antioxidants, exercising regularly and engaging in social activity can all help to maintain mental alertness and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Research also reveals a potential role for dietary supplements in slowing down the effects of aging.
Exploring the impact of age on cognitive changes and health is a vital understanding as more and more people are getting older. Age-related changes in cognition can significantly affect physical health due to poorer health outcomes and delays in the diagnosis of medical conditions. Mental activity, exercise, diet and social engagement are all important factors in maintaining cognitive skills and can help to reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.