USE IT or LOSE IT - Ways to Improve Cognitive Function After 50 - Rumi Cosmetiques

12 Nov, 2021

USE IT or LOSE IT - Ways to Improve Cognitive Function After 50

Cognitive abilities can be divided into several specific cognitive domains including:
• Attention;
• Memory;
• Executive cognitive function (e.g. planning your grocery list, time management, organization);
• Language;
• Visuospatial abilities
   
Unfortunately, each of these domains has measurable declines with age. Perhaps you have noticed that trying to remember the names of your grandchildren’s friends has been a bit more challenging lately or maybe you keep losing things at home.
   
Trying to find my reading glasses just minutes after having taken them off is a new thing for me these recent years. I’m getting to the point of enjoying it and ignoring my husband having the time of his life making fun of myself. 

Show me the facts, Kate!

Auditory acuity begins to decline after age 30, and up to 70% of research participants aged 80 have measurable hearing loss.
  
Also, speech discrimination and sound localisation decrease in advance age.
  
In addition to these changes in sensory perception, there is a clear decline in processing speed in advancing age with older adults performing these activities more slowly than younger adults.
   
The most noticeable changes in attention that occur with age are declines in performance on complex attentional tasks such as selective or divided attention (Harada, Natelson Love & Triebel, 2013).
  
Selective attention is the ability to focus on specific information in an environment while at the same time ignoring irrelevant information. My husband tends to mix these up on purpose…
   
Divided attention, on the other hand, is the ability to focus on multiple tasks simultaneously, which men clearly can’t do either.

Why does it matter?

Cognition is critical for functional independence as people age, including whether someone can live independently, manage finances, take medications correctly, and drive safely.
  
In addition, intact cognition is vital for humans to communicate effectively, including processing and integrating sensory information and responding appropriately to others.
   
Cognitive abilities often decline with age. It is important to understand what types of changes in cognition are expected as a part of normal aging and what type of changes might suggest the onset of a brain disease.

Shouldn’t it be easier by now with all the technology?

It is imperative to understand the effects of age on cognition because of the rapidly increasing number of adults over the age of 65 and the increasing prevalence of age-associated neurodegenerative dementias.
   
Over the past century, the life span for both men and women has increased dramatically.
   
For example, in 1910 the life expectancy of a man was 48 years and 52 for women. In 2010, this has increased to 76 years for men and 81 for women. Good news, right?
   
The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to more than double over the next 40 years, increasing from 40 million in 2010 to 89 million in 2050.

How is this relevant?

Because many more people are living longer, the number of people with age-associated neurodegenerative dementias also is increasing rapidly.
   
The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 5.2 million people in the United States had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer disease (AD) in 2014, and the number of people with a diagnosis of AD is projected to increase to 13.8 million people in 2050, unless effective preventative or treatment strategies are developed.
   
Thus, it is vital to understand how age impacts cognition and what preventative or treatment strategies might preserve cognition into advanced age.
   
Any approaches that could decrease the negative effects of age on cognition or decrease the risk of developing a neurodegenerative dementia would have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of millions of older adults all around the world.

What can I do NOW?

1. M O V E!

A professor of psychology at Florida State and a leading authority on aging and cognition, Neil Charnes, states that aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise has been found to be beneficial for your brain.
  
Physical exercise can cause structural changes in the brain and boost its function.
   
Aerobic exercise includes walking, swimming, biking and even household chores that involve large muscle groups. So you might plan on doing some enthusiastic vacuuming this weekend! A sure treat for your loved ones or the neighbours, haha!

2. Keep yourself occupied!

Sara Festini who is a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Vital Longevity, co-authored research that found middle-aged and older Americans who stay busy tested better on multiple cognitive functions including brain processing speeds, reasoning and vocabulary.
   
Makes total sense, right? That’s why some psychologists have come to love a saying “USE IT or LOSE IT”!
   
When you use your cognitive skills and are constantly challenging your memory pathways, they are kept in tonus which can make them stay with you for longer. And that’s the goal!
   
New experiences or learning is the key to staying sharp as we age. It really is important.

3. Your friends can help!

Being social might just do the job! Now, isn’t that wonderful?
   
Better sleep, lower stress levels, happier mood and improved cognitive function – by being in the company of people we love has magical benefits on our overall wellbeing.
   
Consider calling someone you haven’t talked to in a while or meet them in person!

4. OM away, ladies!

A research made by Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that individuals who meditate have more grey matter in the frontal cortex and that this grey matter is preserved despite aging.
   
According to that, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of grey matter as 25-year-olds! Can you believe it?!
   
That’s why we really say - YOU STILL GOT IT!
   
It can be as easy as shutting your eyes for 2 minutes in the morning or evening while comfortably seated in an armchair. Try it, for brain’s sake!
   
All the best, 
Kate
   
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