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Research: Brain function can start declining as early as age 45

Brain func­tion can start declin­ing ‘as ear­ly as age 45’ (BBC Health):

The brain’s abil­i­ty to func­tion can start to dete­ri­o­rate as ear­ly as 45, sug­gests a study in the British Med­ical Jour­nal.  Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don researchers found a 3.6% decline in men­tal rea­son­ing in women and men aged 45–49. They assessed the mem­o­ry, vocab­u­lary and com­pre­hen­sion skills of 7,000 men and women aged 45 to 70 over 10 years.

The Alzheimer’s Soci­ety said research was need­ed into how changes in the brain could help demen­tia diag­noses.  Pre­vi­ous research had sug­gest­ed that cog­ni­tive decline does not begin much before the age of 60.  But the results of this study show that it could in fact begin in mid­dle age.”

Link to Study: Tim­ing of onset of cog­ni­tive decline: results from White­hall II prospec­tive cohort study  (BMJ). From the Abstract:

Objec­tives:  To esti­mate 10 year decline in cog­ni­tive func­tion from lon­gi­tu­di­nal data in a mid­dle aged cohort and to exam­ine whether age cohorts can be com­pared with cross sec­tion­al data to infer the effect of age on cog­ni­tive decline.

Main out­come mea­sure: Tests of mem­o­ry, rea­son­ing, vocab­u­lary, and phone­mic and seman­tic flu­en­cy, assessed three times over 10 years.

Results: All cog­ni­tive scores, except vocab­u­lary, declined in all five age cat­e­gories (age 45–49, 50–54, 55–59, 60–64, and 65–70 at base­line), with evi­dence of faster decline in old­er peo­ple. In men, the 10 year decline, shown as change/range of test×100, in rea­son­ing was ?3.6% (95% con­fi­dence inter­val ?4.1% to ?3.0%) in those aged 45–49 at base­line and ?9.6% (?10.6% to ?8.6%) in those aged 65–70. In women, the cor­re­spond­ing decline was ?3.6% (?4.6% to ?2.7%) and ?7.4% (?9.1% to ?5.7%). Com­par­isons of lon­gi­tu­di­nal and cross sec­tion­al effects of age sug­gest that the lat­ter over­es­ti­mate decline in women because of cohort dif­fer­ences in edu­ca­tion. For exam­ple, in women aged 45–49 the lon­gi­tu­di­nal analy­sis showed rea­son­ing to have declined by ?3.6% (?4.5% to ?2.8%) but the cross sec­tion­al effects sug­gest­ed a decline of ?11.4% (?14.0% to ?8.9%).

Con­clu­sions: Cog­ni­tive decline is already evi­dent in mid­dle age (age 45–49).”

To learn more, click on Build­ing a Cog­ni­tive Reserve — Inter­view with Dr. Yaakov Stern.

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