Previously, it is often thought that women only start to lose their mental sharpness in their 70s. However, a new longitudinal study shows otherwise.
The study shows that mental sharpness – processing speed and memory in particular, starts to deteriorate as early as age 50 in women. The rate of mental decline is estimiated at 5% every 10 years.
The study included 2,124 participants from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Outcomes examined were scores on annual tests of processing speed, verbal episodic memory (immediate and delayed), and working memory. Average age at this baseline was 54 years, and the majority of the women were postmenopausal
This mental decline is, unfortunately, part of aging, and does not mean that there is a greater chance of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
What Can You Do To Prevent Mental Decline?
Although it is thought that estrogen has protective effects on mental function, the study did not find a sharp decline in cognition pre and post menopause – hence, it draws into question the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to protect mental function. The mental decline got worse as one got older.
Keep Your Brain Active
Rather, the better way to make sure that that you remain mentally sharp all your life, is to keep your brain active. However, is it not as easy as doing crossword puzzles or playing mahjong:
“Lots of studies have shown that the more cognitively active you are, the less decline you have in the domains in which you’re active. So if you do a lot of crossword puzzles, you’ll continue to be able to do them well, but that doesn’t mean it translates to other domains.” says Dr Arun S. Karlamangla, Professor of medicine, Geriatrics, from David Geffen School of Medicine, LA.
Hence, keeping the brain active will involve an active lifestyle, such as continuing to work, be socially active, reading, etc.
Exercise and physical activity is also important in slowing down mental decline. Diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as diabetes and heart disease – will all accelerate mental decline as your body is under more stress. Keeping a healthy lifestyle will minimise these conditions.
Keep Chronic Diseases Under Control
If you already have chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, it is important to control them adequately, so that they do not cause further, more serious problems like a heart attack – which will directly cause your brain to turn to mush faster.