Because our brains age, cognitive decline happens in most people after age 70, even those without dementia.
A new article in the journal Psychological Science explains how we can slow our rate of cognitive decline after age 70 with a simple, free approach everyone can use.
The researchers analyzed information about 1,091 people collected in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study, which followed people throughout their lives.
All of the participants were born in Scotland in 1936.
They were tested at several points throughout their lives, which enabled researchers to map their cognitive changes before age 70.
They also measured their cognitive decline between ages 70 and 82 in four domains:
- general cognitive ability
- visuospatial ability
- processing speed
Visuospatial skill refers to our ability to understand and mentally manipulate what we see. Examples are our ability to imagine objects, draw shapes, and recognize faces.
Their analysis yielded the following results.
1. Almost all of the participants’ generalized cognitive ability scores increased between ages 11 and 70, as one would expect, because of the influences of education, work life, and voluntary learning.
2. People with the highest cognitive ability by age 70 had slower rates of cognitive decline after age 70 than those with low cognitive abilities. This confirms earlier research that links general intelligence with slow cognitive decline in later years.
3. People who learned a lot before age 70 had slower cognitive decline between ages 70 and 82, regardless of their general level of intelligence.
This is good news because it means that our rate of cognitive decline when we age is partly in our own hands. We just need to be willing to continue learning before age 70.
Why is early learning so important?
All brains suffer arterial deterioration, less blood flow, and mini-strokes as they age. These events damage extremely tiny parts of the brain. The more parts of the brain are damaged, the more cognitive decline a person suffers.
If you learn a lot during your younger years, much more of your brain is developed well enough that new parts can take over the functions of damaged parts.
Therefore, it is true that it is never too late to learn and keep your brain exercised.
An even more effective way to slow down and even reverse dementia and brain decline is to load it with one free ingredient, as explained here…