Cognitive Decline: What It Is & How to Stop It

We look at what cognitive decline is, including how it is caused and how to recognize the symptoms. We then also evaluate methods of preventing the onset of cognitive decline and ways of maintaining mental alertness as you age.

Cognitive decline is the deterioration of mental facilities. This is usually down to aging but can be brought on by other medical conditions or lifestyle choices. It ranges from age-related memory loss to mild cognitive impairment to dementia, and though not all cognitive decline develops into dementia, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with prevention methods and ways of keeping your brain active as you age.

We have therefore written this article to tell you everything you need to know about cognitive decline, from symptoms and causes, to how to stop it.

What is Cognitive Decline?

Cognitive Decline

With aging, a list of common problems starts to occur. A range of these problems relates to how the brain functions and cognitive decline can become a burden on everyday life.

Cognitive decline is the gradual deterioration of mental facilities largely down to natural aging but can also be brought on by a neurological or psychological disturbance. This can include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, or substance abuse.

As it is normally caused by natural aging, however, it’s important to note the general change in cognitive function as we grow old is the slower speed of information processing and the onset of memory impairment.

Cognitive decline is a normal process of aging as the brain isn’t as active or as supple as it used to be. It can happen at many different points in life and affects different elements of these lives. However, it has the same overall effect, which is that the brain does not support you as well as before.

Cognitive decline is a response to the aging of neurons and decreased speed of brain functions. Most people in their life will experience cognitive decline as it is such a normal part of aging and though it is age-related, the definite cause of it remains unknown.

The aging brain can be impacted by several factors from biological to psychological to environments and these factors are what usually contribute to a normal functioning brain.

Individuals will usually experience some form of cognitive decline in their 6th, 7th, or 8th decade and beyond and cognitive change can be a result of varying influences such as educational background, intellectual capacity, lifestyle, and pre-existing health conditions.

There are three types of cognitive decline and these include age-related memory changes, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.

Age-related changes in the memory mean a mild memory impairment that occurs with the normal aging process whereas amnestic mild cognitive impairment refers to a case of memory loss. The difference is that MCI is slightly more serious and signs include forgetting important events or struggling to come up with the right words for things.

Dementia, on the other hand, includes Alzheimer’s disease and this can be chronic, progressive, or irreversible. This global cognitive impairment and form of memory loss are so severe that they can impact and interfere with daily functioning and everyday living.

Symptoms of Cognitive Decline

Common symptoms of age-related cognitive decline include:

  • Memory lapses
  • Poor Judgement
  • Lack of mental alertness
  • Confusion
  • Lack of focus and concentration

Noticing these symptoms on yourself or a loved one could be an indication of age-related expected cognitive decline and so is a good indication it might develop at some point into mild cognitive impairment.

Mild cognitive impairment is the stepping stone between age-related memory impairment and dementia and spotting the signs of these can be important so you know when to seek help. Although mild cognitive impairment does not interfere with daily life in most cases, mental function slips even further and it could increase your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other neurological conditions.

Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment include:

  • Forgetting important events, appointments, and social engagements
  • Losing train of thoughts or a thread in a conversation, movie, or book
  • Feeling overwhelmed at making decisions
  • Feeling overwhelmed at any complicated task
  • Becoming impulsive or having increasingly poor judgment
  • Struggling to understand simple instructions
  • Struggling to find your way around familiar environments

Along with mild cognitive impairment, it’s common to also experience depression, anxiety, apathy and irritability, and aggression.

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment might remain stable and they might either improve over time or progress to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Mild cognitive impairments often develop brain changes which are seen in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In autopsy studies, a group of beta-amyloid proteins and clumps of tau protein characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease have been found.

Lewy bodies have also been found. These are microscopic clumps of another type of protein that is associated with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and some cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

Small strokes have also been picked up on, and a reduced blood flow through the brain blood vessels.

Brain-imaging studies show significant changes that are related to mild cognitive impairment. These changes include the hippocampus having shrunk. The hippocampus is a brain region that is vital for working memory.

Images also show an enlargement of the brain’s ventricles, which are fluid-filled spaces, and reduced use of glucose. This is sugar which is the primary source of energy for cells in key brain regions.

What Causes Cognitive Decline?

Though the definite cause of cognitive decline remains unknown, the strongest risk factors are both increasing age and having a specific form of a gene which is known as APOE e4. This is the gene related to Alzheimer’s disease, however, it does not guarantee that you will experience cognitive decline.

Cognitive decline has been associated with pre-existing medical conditions and lifestyle factors. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Smoking
  • Malnutrition
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic stress levels
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Low education level
  • Infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating exercises
  • Vision or hearing impairments
  • High Cholesterol

How to Stop Cognitive Decline

As you age, it is inevitable for certain things in your body to change. This can include the brain and whilst it might take older adults longer to complete cognitive activities such as memory tests, there are certain prevention methods to try and stop the cognitive decline and assist older adults in increasing their capacity to learn as well as overall mental ability and adapt as they age.

Though there is no cure for dementia or treatments to prevent it, the following methods have been proven successful in treating cognitive decline and keeping the mind sharp. These include:

Exercise

woman exercising

Exercise can open up a whole door of physical health benefits at any age, but can also be great for the mind and might be able to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

Research also shows that partaking in regular exercise can help improve cognitive function in those who already have memory problems. It is also advantageous for people who possess the APOE4 gene variant and this is what makes people more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise helps cognitive function as it can enhance mood and reduce stress, both of which are common risk factors that contribute to cognitive decline. Additionally, cardiovascular exercises elevate heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain and body.

Other benefits of exercise as you age include helping to prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, lowering the risk of high blood pressure, lowering the risk of colon and breast cancer, helping to relieve insomnia, and helping people deal with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Learn

learning computer

Years of formal education have formed some of the strongest evidence for reducing the risk of dementia. Moreover, activities that engage your brain such as reading, board games, and playing musical instruments can decrease your risk of dementia. You could even try taking a class online or at your local college.

Stimulating your brain has been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and this is not limited only to formal education. Mental stimulation can also come from reading books, newspapers, or magazines, from playing card and board games, from crossword and word search puzzles, and even from going to the museum.

A lot of researchers believe education level is less important in maintaining a healthy brain and decreasing the chances of cognitive decline compared to staying mentally active as you age. Therefore, even if you are formally educated, it’s recommended to keep doing brain-stretching activities such as those listed above to maintain a healthy cognitive function.

Socialize

Socializing

Keeping social contacts can have positive effects on overall health and brainpower, and may even be as important as physical activity and a healthy diet. Social interactions can help protect memory and cognitive decline as a result of natural aging.

Ensure you share activities with family and friends and find ways to be part of your local community. Research shows that people with strong social connections are less likely to lose vital cognitive functions as they age.

Depression, which is linked to loneliness and lack of social interactions also correlates to a faster cognitive decline, and maintaining social connections can also help lower stress levels.

Keeping social connections requires you to use mental processes such as memory and attention and frequent socialization can strengthen neural networks. This helps keep the brain healthy and slows down age-related cognitive decline.

Sleep

sleeping adult

We know when you’ve not had enough sleep, you don’t feel on top of your game but there are also serious conditions to arise from not getting enough hours of sleep at night. It could cause insomnia, apnea, and other conditions which link with thinking skills and memory.

Getting consistent sleep can therefore improve overall health and might be able to prevent cognitive decline. Our bodies rely on regular sleep to function and those who get less than seven hours a night have a lower mental capacity than those who get regular rest.

Moreover, sleep disorders are common as we age and these might affect cognitive function, memory, thinking skills, and learning. Sleepiness in the daytime might be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder and this has been linked to an increase in the risk of dementia. Older adults might benefit from a regular sleep routine such as going to the bed and waking up at the same time each day.

A Healthy Diet

Cognitive Decline: What It Is & How to Stop It 1

Eating a low-fat diet might reduce the risk of cognitive decline. This is because the right nutrition can provide the necessary nutrients to reduce the risk of other diseases related to cognitive declines, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Although research is limited, certain diets such as the Mediterranean diet might contribute to the risk reduction of cognitive decline.

A Mediterranean diet places emphasis on fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, poultry, dairy, and fish. It also limits red meat consumption and this has proven to better cardiovascular health and lower the risk of certain cancers which might protect against cognitive decline.

Obesity and malnutrition has been linked to cognitive decline and therefore keeping an eye on nutrition and how you fuel your body can ultimately lower the overall risk

Although older studies suggest one alcoholic beverage a day may lower the risk of dementia, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases if you are a heavy drinker. It is therefore recommended to limit alcohol consumption to one beverage a day.

It might also be a good idea to quit smoking. Smoking is known to increase the risk of cognitive decline and so quitting smoking to reduce this risk can help.

Know Your Other Health Conditions

As we mentioned earlier in the article, cognitive decline is usually associated with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. If you have more than one of these conditions, the risk also increases and so ensuring you are receiving the right medical treatment for these conditions can help slow down cognitive decline.

Supplements to Help with Cognitive Decline and Boost Cognitive Functions

The use of supplements plays a critical role in slowing down cognitive decline.

Mind Lab Pro® Universal Nootropic™

Mind Lab Pro was designed to become part of your daily routine to improve mental clarity, enhance memory, increase mood and help with long-range brain health. As a result of this, it’s a great supplement to introduce to your diet which may delay the onset of cognitive decline.

It promises to unlock your ‘A’ game and help you increase creativity and confidence both mentally and physically. It is rated number one for improving mental clarity and alertness and promises to maintain those cognitive functions needed for you to be the sharpest and productive version of yourself.

It has also been subjected to double-blind, placebo-controlled trials by just taking 2-4 capsules a day, it can get to work in just 30 minutes. Over time, you should be able to maintain cognitive abilities, concentrate for long periods, improve mental agility and increase the speed of thought. These improvements will increase the longer you take the supplement.

Conclusion

Cognitive decline is the deterioration of vital mental facilities and it is usually brought on by natural aging. As you age, changes in the body are normal, and this can include the brain. That is why it is so important to keep the brain as healthy and as active as possible.

The methods we provide in this article help do so, whilst also have been proven to stop or slow down cognitive decline. The methods can also help improve overall health, both physically and mentally. For example, socialization and exercise can help with mental health and stress reduction and a healthy diet can provide you with the right nutrition to avoid obesity or malnutrition.

Since these are also factors related to cognitive decline, we recommend you try out these methods to keep that brain engaged and minimize the risk of cognitive decline in the future.

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