Age-related declines in cognitive health can be normal, but they don’t have to be a burden. Taking steps to maintain and even improve cognitive health while aging is important, and knowing more about what influences the brain and cognition will also help.
Aside from diseases of the brain that impact cognitive health, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, levels of mental ability can change with age. Everything from inherited genes to lifestyle and dietary choices can influence how people age mentally. Therefore, making changes in lifestyle or diet to improve certain outcomes is an important step in protecting cognitive health while aging.
Cognitive health is a broad category, encompassing everything from normal rates of cognitive decline to diseases and injury-related damages. Typical changes in mental ability due to aging can include difficulties in multitasking, paying attention or focusing for extended periods of time; and finding it hard to recall a particular word or fact or remember minor chores or facts related to daily life.
There are several things that can be done to protect or even improve cognitive health. A healthy diet and sufficient amount of exercise have both been linked by numerous studies to improved brain function and cognitive health. In addition, a healthy diet and exercise may help reduce major risks to cognitive health such as stroke and chronic diseases. Finally, social interactions and the regular pursuit of new knowledge or skills may act as buffers to protect against age-related decline.1*
At Nestlé Health Science, we are actively exploring nutritional therapies meant to improve cognitive health and help patients use nutrition to improve their quality of life.
1. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/brain-health-resource. Accessed December 2014.
* Causes of cognitive decline are not all-inclusive; other factors may be involved.