Cognitive Decline and Aging

Published on July 06, 2017 by Dr. NavNirat Nibber

There seems to be a common notion that the natural aging process is part and parcel with cognitive decline. As though we are boarding a train of cognitive decline and there is no escape, a rather grim outlook. The thing is, aging doesn’t equate to a loss in mental faculties, in fact many of these faculties peak at various points.

Your Brain on Aging:
As we age our brain will in fact shrink with every year that passes. The loss is approximately 2g/year from 26-80 years old and 5g/year after 80 years old. This is a non-specific finding that occurs, the pattern of shrinking (i.e. when specific areas shrink faster or more than others) can indicate specific pathologies such as Alzheimers disease. However generalized shrinking is perfectly normal. It is also normal for different cognitive processes to peak throughout our lives. For example, our perceptual ability peaks at 25, while our visual ability peaks at 39 years old ( on average.) That being said, inductive reasoning, verbal memory and spatial reasoning all peak around 53 years old; and verbal ability peaks after 60. Long term, cued responses, like vocabulary, verbal knowledge, long term memory, remain the same as we age while things that change or slightly decline are usually related to processing of new information.

Of course there are many modifiable factors that can accelerate or slow down these processes, such as diet, sleep, trauma, and toxic exposure.

In order to support a healthy aging brain its best to keep it simple:

  • Eat Healthy: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been considered essential for brain development and function, and you may consider ketogenic diets.
  • Get regular exercise
  • Stay socially active
  • Reduce stress
  • Do crosswords and other mind challenging games like chess
  • Learn a new language