Body changes after sixty, information for those with inquiring minds part two of two
Normal Cognitive Aging
Highlights from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015335/
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The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to more than double in the next forty years, increasing from 40.2 million in 2010 to 88.5 million in 2050.1 It will become increasingly important to understand the cognitive changes that accompany aging, both normal and pathologic. Although dementia and mild cognitive impairment are both common, even those who do not experience these conditions may experience subtle cognitive changes associated with aging. These normal cognitive changes are important to understand because, first, they can affect an older adult’s day to day function and, second, they can help us distinguish normal from disease states.
NEUROCOGNITIVE CHANGES IN AGING
Cognitive change as a normal process of aging has been well documented in the scientific literature. Some cognitive abilities, such as vocabulary, are resilient to brain aging and may even improve with age. Other abilities, such as conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed, decline gradually over time. There is significant heterogeneity among older adults in the rate of decline in some abilities, such as measures of perceptual reasoning and processing speed.11
Processing speed refers to the speed with which cognitive activities are performed as well as the speed of motor responses. This fluid ability begins to decline in the third decade of life and continues throughout the lifespan. 12,15,16 Many of the cognitive changes reported in healthy older adults are the result of slowed processing speed. This “slowing” can negatively impact performance on many neuropsychological tests designed to measure other cognitive domains (e.g., verbal fluency). Thus, a decline in processing speed can have implications across a variety of cognitive domains.
One of the most common cognitive complaints among older adults is change in memory. Indeed, as a group, older adults do not perform as well as younger adults on a variety of learning and memory tests. Age-related memory changes may be related to slowed processing speed18, reduced ability to ignore irrelevant information19, and decreased use of strategies to improve learning and memory.20–22
STRUCTURAL AND FUNCTIONAL BRAIN CHANGES WITH AGING
Promising developments in neuroscience research may help to explain observed age-related cognitive changes. Studies vary significantly in design, including study population and variables examined, and more research in this area is needed. In this section we will describe some of the age-related changes that have been identified and present theories for how these changes may relate to neurocognitive aging
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF AGE-RELATED COGNITIVE DECLINE
By definition, normal age-related cognitive change does not impair a person’s ability to perform daily activities. If an older adult develops functional impairments, even with complicated tasks such as managing finances or medications, it is prudent to pursue a workup for dementia if there is no other obvious explanation for these difficulties, such as a reaction to a medication, a new medical illness, or a vision problem. However, studies show that normal cognitive aging can result in subtle declines in complex functional abilities, such as the ability to drive.57
Summary of the Normal Cognitive Aging article
The normal aging process is associated with declines in certain cognitive abilities, such as processing speed and certain memory, language, visuospatial, and executive function abilities. While these declines are not yet well understood, promising developments in neurology research have identified declines in grey and white matter volume, changes in white matter, and declines in neurotransmitter levels that all may contribute to observed cognitive changes with aging. These changes are small and should not result in impairment in function, nonetheless, driving, and certain other activities may be compromised, and it is important to detect safety issues early. Participation in certain activities, building cognitive reserve, and engaging in cognitive retraining may all be approaches to achieving successful cognitive aging. While research in the area of normal cognitive aging may seem less pressing than research in the area of pathologic brain disease, a more complete understanding of normal brain aging may shed light on abnormal brain processes. Additionally, the majority of adults over the age of 65 will not develop dementia or MCI, and more work is needed to better understand how we can maximize cognitive function and quality of life for these individuals.
Steps that may help in maintaining cognitive your cognitive abilities There are documented activities that help in delaying mental decline and they revolve around these various activities from a to z:
- Maintaining and expanding your intellectual activities by doing such things as Recreational and professional reading
- Joining a book reading club, read for fun, read for knowledge, read about topics you enjoy or are interested in, read, read, and read some more.
- Participating in discussion groups, in person or online, discuss an issue with a friend, each one taking the opposite side, stretch your mind by thinking of the opposite side of the matter
- Working on puzzles such as crossword, Sudoku, Jumble, Hocus-Focus, Minute Maze, Crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, Jumble puzzles, Jigsaw puzzles (enter puzzles for adults in the search bar)
- Learn new skills, learn how to learn, learn new skills for studying
- Learn a foreign language with one of the programs on the internet, with a tutor or with a friend whose original language different than yours.
- Play a new board game with your wife or friends
- Learn how to play a musical instrument
- Start a diary or journal and write down your thoughts as you go along or at night after the day is finished
- Visit local museums,
- Attend local college workshops
- Start a blog
- Keep mentally active by reading a variety of different subjects, writing to friends, playing card games with yourself or others, and playing music with your newly learned musical skills.
- Expand your horizons by stretching outside of where you feel comfortable, seek out different environments, mix up your friends, do a daily chore with the non-dominant limb, start a new exercise routine.
- Use your imagination, find new ways to solve problems, brainstorm, develop new networking skills, look for inspiration all around you in your daily life.
- Train your brain with new activities by using apps such as https://www.lumosity.com/en/. There is a daily activity that may be helpful, according to the site. NOTE: to reap the full benefits of this program you will have to pay for the premium packages. The goal is to form new neural connections in your brain. This process is referred to as Neuroplasticity. “Neuroplasticity can be defined as a final common pathway of neurobiological processes, including structural, functional, or molecular mechanisms, that result in stability or compensation for age- or disease-related changes.” This is important because more neuroplasticity in your brain the faster it functions. This increases the speed of your connections which then enhances your ability to process more effectively new information.
- Naturally, physical activity had to land here on the letter P. To be successful in building your cognitive abilities, exercise raises the oxygen sent to your brain. This oxygen assists the functioning of your brain causing memory improvement as well as your ability to focus on the tasks at hand. Some even say that if you want to be more energetic, less depressed and stressed, and even smarter then exercise is essential in your life. So, start moving.
- Sleep is critical in helping maintain your brainpower. Sleeping enough each night is a key element in sustaining your attention span and keeping your intellectual excellence sharp.
- Expand our social network. Strengthen the social ties you already have by paying attention to the conversations and improve your memory skills at the same time. Doing so improves your neural brain connections and may even strengthen your cognitive reserve pool which can help slow down the beginning of dementia.
- Nutrition suggestions: emphasize fruits, herbs, vegetables, nuts, beans, and of course whole grains. Incorporate a mild amount of dairy, poultry, eggs, and seafood in your daily and weekly meals.
- Healthy fats are a necessary part of your daily nutritional needs. The healthiest is Olive oil since it is a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol as well as low density lipoprotein, the bad kind of cholesterol LDL. Foods such as nuts, seeds, fatty fishes like mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and even lake trout are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid may help reduce the inflammation present in your body. Omega-3 acids likewise help decrease blood clotting, triglycerides, and reduce your risk of suffering a stroke and/or heart failure.
- Reduce the use of excessive salt in your diet. The daily recommendations from the FDA are less than 2300 mg per day. Contrast this with the average intake of 3400 mg per day of the average American. Sodium and Blood Pressure. Sodium attracts water, and a high-sodium diet draws water into the bloodstream, which can increase the volume of blood and subsequently your blood pressure. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a condition in which blood pressure remains elevated over time. Hypertension makes the heart work too hard, and the high force of the blood flow can harm arteries and organs (such as the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes). Uncontrolled high blood pressure can raise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. In addition, blood pressure generally rises as you get older, so limiting your sodium intake becomes even more important each year.
- Weight control. Change your eating habits, take control of your body, and achieve a healthy weight by altering your lifestyle through cleaner eating, getting regular exercise, and balancing your caloric intake with your daily activity level.
- Have your vision checked. According to the CDC, research has found that vision impairment often co-occurs with cognitive impairment.
- Youthful outlook, keep your spirits up, look on the bright side of things, don’t dwell on the negatives of your situation, instead focus on what you have that is good in your life such as your children, friends, ability to still remain active mentally and physically. Look at the sky, the mountains, the beautiful trees, and shrubbery that surround where your live. There is good in everything, sometimes you just have to look hard to find it, but it is there.
- Live your remaining years with a zeal for life, you won’t go wrong. Plus, you are setting an example for your children and friends on how to live life to the fullest.
You must keep your brain engaged every single day. Learn something new every single day. Read something new every single day. Do something new every single day. Exercise every single day. Do you notice the pattern here? Keep going forward but not on the same trail every day. Choose a different path and explore it. Do something different every day.
And on top of the degenerative conditions previously mentioned, we have a myriad of diseases that often appear on the horizon such as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Ischemic heart disease (or coronary heart disease)
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- Heart failure
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Taken in the order listed here are a few suggested steps to help prevent or manage these ten diseases. Much of this information comes from the Center for Disease Control, however there are also many other sources, all of which will be attributed to the original source.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)