Cognitive Health in the Elderly

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As we grow old, we face a significant decline in our cognitive health – the ability to think, learn, and remember clearly. If left unmanaged, mild cognitive decline (MCI) may even progress to severe cognitive impairments, as seen in dementia.

However, keeping ourselves physically, socially, and mentally active in old age can help us cope with the symptoms of cognitive decline. This article will discuss symptoms, risk factors, and ways to overcome this issue in old age.

Symptoms of Cognitive Decline

Mild cognitive impairment in the elderly usually presents with the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss or forgetfulness. This may include forgetting about recent events, conversations, names of closed ones, or appointments.
  • Language issues such as difficulty in using or remembering the desired words and trouble understanding verbal or written language.
  • Impaired decision-making abilities.
  • Decreased ability to focus and struggle with reasoning and judgment.

According to the National Institute on Aging, about 10 to 20% of people aged 65 or older with mild cognitive decline develop dementia over one year. You can read further about dementia in the elderly here.

Cause of MCI in the Elderly

The exact cause of the cognitive decline in old age is not yet discovered; however, it is usually associated with the presence of a specific form of a gene known as the APOE 4 gene. In addition, several modifiable risk factors also predispose us to develop a cognitive decline in the elderly such as the following:

  • Diabetes, Smoking, Alcohol intake, and Obesity.
  • Decreased physical activity.
  • Hypercholesterolemia (increased cholesterol levels) and hypertension (increased blood pressure).
  • Low education and reduced social interactions.
  • Other mental health conditions like depression, delusions, etc.

Ways to Prevent MCI

Although it is not possible to completely prevent ourselves from developing mild cognitive impairment, following measures can slow down the process of cognitive decline and help us preserve cognitive health in old age.

  • Widened social circle and healthy social interactions.
  • Memory exercises using memory puzzles, games, or apps. The Unified Caring Association has also mentioned some memory training games such as Memozor, Lumosity, etc.
  • Limited alcohol intake and smoking
  • Healthy sleep cycle and good sleep hygiene.
  • Strict management of associated diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, etc.
  • Regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Some studies have also revealed that vitamin E supplements can help slow down the progression of cognitive decline in old age. Similarly, vitamin C, B6, and B12 supplements can also be helpful in this condition.

Take home:

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a normal aging process that can progress to dementia or other related disorders if left unmanaged. Obesity, hypertension, low education, and other risk factors make us prone to developing MCI in old age. However, memory exercises, regular physical activity, social connectedness, and vitamin supplements can help us preserve our cognitive health in old age.

References:

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-mild-cognitive-impairment

https://unifiedcaringcommunity.com/dementia-and-alzheimers-disease-in-the-elderly/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4109898/

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