Here is question 12 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions. To download the complete version, please click here.
What does “normal aging” mean? Do we all age the same way?
- Age-related cognitive decline typically starts at about 40 when your brain processing speed slows down.
- At the same time, older adults have generally acquired more knowledge and wisdom, but may still have difficulties memorizing specific information.
- The more education people have and the more their minds are challenged throughout lifetime, the less they suffer from age-related decline.
Generally, getting older both reduces your attentional capacity and the capacity for learning new information, and increases your brain processing requirements. Basically, it takes more and more inhibition skills to tune out distractions and stay focused. Individuals will vary in how and when they feel these decreases, but they will eventually occur.
Fortunately, a great deal of research has shown that practicing cognitive skills encourages their preservation and development at all ages. Research into cognitive reserves found that the more education people had and the more their minds were occupied, the less they suffered from age-related decline. People who remain intellectually active and engage in hobbies reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias by one third. All of these facts show that cognitive training — exercising your brain — helps protect your brain against decline in memory, concentration, and information processing.
So, plan your brain fitness program now. It’s never too late or too early.
- American Society on Aging
- National Institute on Aging
- Healthy Seniors
- National Council on Aging
- Diamond, Marian C. Successful Aging of the Healthy Brain. Conference of the American Society on Aging and The National Council on the Aging, March 10, 2001; New Orleans, LA; First Joint Conference.
- Durga J, van Boxtel MP, Schouten EG, Kok FJ, Jolles J, Katan MB, Verhoef P. Effect of 3‑year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: a randomised, double blind, controlled trial. Lancet. 2007;369:208–16.
- Goldberg, Elkhonon. 2005. The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older New York City: Gotham Books. ISBN: 1592401104.
- Scarmeas N, Stern Y. Cognitive reserve and lifestyle. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2003;25:625–33.
- Willis SL, Tennstedt SL, Marsiske M, et al. Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. JAMA. 2006;296:2805–14.
- Wolinsky FD, Unverzagt FW, Smith DM, Jones R, Stoddard A, Tennstedt SL. The ACTIVE Cognitive Training Trial and Health-Related Quality of Life: Protection That Lasts for 5 Years. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006;61:1324–9.