Cognitive decline can begin when we hit 45

International researchers have reported in the British Medical Journal that the brain’s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension skills can start to deteriorate from age 45; 15 years earlier than it is normally thought to begin. They assessed the onset of cognitive decline by observing more than 7,000 men and women over a 10-year period from 1997.

Associate Professor John Stevens, Associated Professor in the School of Health and Human Sciences at Southern Cross University and academic researcher in lifestyle medicine and ageing, including dementia, had this to say.

“This study examines where cognitive decline related to ageing starts to occur. The literature on this topic has suggested for years that aged related cognitive decline does not normally begin till after 60 years. This research indicates very convincingly that aged related decline is measureable in ages as early as 45 years. This is a very robust study of over 5000 people followed over more than ten years.

The results provide new insights into the processes of normal ageing. While the study was not designed to predict the relationships that might tell us when abnormal cognitive decline begins, such as with Alzheimer’s Disease, it provides an exciting, evidence based starting point for new research into this area.

The research also indicates that ‘what is good for the heart is good for the brain’ meaning that that the same lifestyle risk factors that cause abnormal decline, in heart health and function (obesity, high blood sugars, high blood pressure, hyperlipidaemia, low physical activity etc) affect the cognitive health and rate of decline of the brain in similar ways.

With populations all over the world and in Australia ageing, then new knowledge like this about the ageing brain can be added to the thinking and researching of a diverse range of paradigms including dementia, lifestyle medicine and health, education, design, I.T. and town planning, for example.”

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