Our cognitive performance tends to peak around age 30 and begins to lower each year after that. However, there are a number of different strategies for slowing down cognitive decline, and we’ll tell you about several of them in today’s post. At the same time, we’ll discuss some of the most common cognitive changes in older adults to be on the lookout for as you age.
Let’s start there.
Common Cognitive Changes in Older Adults
Here are eight of the most common cognitive changes seen in older adults.
1. Difficulty Multitasking
You may find that you can no longer do two things at once as well as you used to. This is because the cognitive process of divided attention becomes more difficult with age.
It’s normal to forget things from time to time, but older adults may find they’re forgetting things more often. This can be due to a number of factors, including medications, sleep changes, and stress.
3. Slower Processing Speed
As we age, it takes us longer to process information and make decisions. This is because the brain’s neural pathways become slower with age. These neural pathways can be further slowed by health conditions like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
4. Changes In Executive Function
Executive function skills like planning, organizing, and problem-solving can decline with age. This is often due to changes in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function.
5. Changes In Short-Term Memory
Older adults may have more difficulty remembering recent events, although their long-term memory generally remains intact. Usually, this is because the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory, the hippocampus, shrinks with age.
6. Changes In Long-Term Memory
While changes in long-term memory are not as common as changes in short-term memory, they can still occur. Older adults may find it more difficult to remember things from their childhood or earlier adulthood. They may also have trouble recalling the names of people and places.
7. Changes In Sensory Processing
You may find that you’re not as good at hearing or seeing as you used to be. As we age, the senses begin to decline. We may not be able to see as clearly or hear as well. Often, this is because the ability of the brain to process sensory information declines with age.
8. Changes In Reaction Time
You may notice it takes you longer to react to things than it used to, largely due to reaction time slowing with age.
Next, it’s worth discussing the brain and how it changes as we age. Of course, cognitive abilities are part of this, but there are a number of other ways aging affects the brain.
How The Brain Changes As We Age
The brain changes in a number of ways as we age. One of the most well-known is the shrinkage of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation.
Another change includes a decrease in the number of neurons and a reduction in their size and complexity. The connections between them also weaken.
Finally, the brain’s metabolism changes, meaning it doesn’t get the same level of nourishment as it did when we were younger.
All of this leads to a decline in cognitive abilities, which is inevitable for all of us as we age, though the rate at which it happens varies from person to person.
Normal vs. Abnormal Cognitive Decline
Of course, you’ll need to speak to your doctor for information specific to your case, but here are some of the signs that can help distinguish between normal vs. abnormal cognitive decline.
One of the first things to consider is the rate of cognitive decline. A sudden or dramatic change in cognitive abilities is more likely to be abnormal, while a gradual change over time is more likely to fall into the “normal” category. Further, cognitive decline that occurs in specific domains, such as memory or executive function, is more concerning than cognitive changes that are more global.
Another key difference between normal and abnormal cognitive decline is the presence of other symptoms. For example, abnormal cognitive decline may be accompanied by changes in mood or behavior, difficulty with activities of daily living, or problems with language. Conversely, normal cognitive aging generally does not involve any accompanying symptoms.
Finally, it’s important to consider the context in which cognitive changes are occurring. Normal cognitive aging is unlikely to interfere with work or social functioning, while abnormal cognitive decline may make it difficult to perform everyday tasks or interact with others. If you’re noticing cognitive changes that are affecting your ability to function in day-to-day life, it’s important to speak to your doctor.
In general, the normal cognitive decline does not interfere with activities of daily living, while abnormal cognitive decline can make it difficult to perform even simple tasks. If you’re concerned about your cognitive abilities, talk to your doctor about getting cognitive testing. This can help to identify any problems and come up with a plan to address them.
How To Slow Cognitive Decline In Older Adults
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to slowing down cognitive decline, as the best approach will vary depending on the individual’s situation. However, some key strategies can be helpful for many people.
First, it’s important to stay physically active as you age. Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against cognitive decline.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Second, eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is important for overall health, but it may also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Third, socialize regularly. Staying socially active can help keep your mind sharp and reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Challenge Your Mind
Fourth, challenge your mind regularly. Doing things like puzzles, learning new skills, and reading can help keep your mind active and reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Fifth, get enough sleep. Sleep is important for overall health, and it may also help protect against cognitive decline.
Manage Chronic Health Conditions
Finally, manage chronic health conditions. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure have been linked to cognitive decline. If you have a chronic condition, work with your doctor to keep it under control.
Slowing Cognitive Changes In Older Adults
In conclusion, cognitive changes in older adults are a reality, but there are ways to help prevent cognitive decline. A healthy diet, social interaction, and mentally stimulating activities can all help keep your mind sharp as you age. Don’t wait until cognitive decline becomes a problem to start making lifestyle changes—the sooner you take action, the better.