From the age of 45 you are in cognitive decline: this is the major finding of a study titled ‘Timing of Onset of Cognitive Decline’ by Singh-Manoux et al published in the British Medical Journal last week.
SCU associate professor of Health and Human Sciences John Stevens is an expert in research into dementia and cognitive decline and lifestyle medicine, and has spent most of the weekend commenting to the media on this controversial finding.
In what he describes as a ‘robust study’ of over 7000 people over 10 years, it became apparent that cognitive decline, in things such as memory, reasoning, vocabulary and comprehension started at 45 not at 60 as previously indicated in the scientific literature.’
The tests excluded lifestyle and stress-related issues and measured brain function on specific cognitive tasks.
‘It’s about looking at what happens in a large group and it doesn’t mean it happens like that in individuals; what they are saying that this is a trend in the population as opposed to what happens with every individual,’ said professor Stevens.
Interestingly the rate of cognitive decline is the same across the community and not affected by socio-economics, race or gender.
The only mitigating factor is lifestyle related.
‘The study commented that if you treat your heart well you treat your brain well.
‘What that is saying is that all the things we know about how to prevent heart disease, such as removing obesity, increasing activity, managing high blood pressure and high blood lipids, if we do the same thing for heart life it has the same effect for the ageing brain in slowing down cognitive decline.
‘This is not about dementia, this is normal physiological ageing process,’ continued professor Stevens, who believes that the findings of this paper will have definite social impacts.
‘It means that we have to rethink where ageing starts.
‘Currently the literature has researchers working from the age of 60 to try and develop interventions for preventions or removal of ageing diseases like dementia.’
He went on to say, ‘World populations are ageing, so many people are going to be 45 and over very soon, yet the world is being designed around the idea that a 45-year-old is an adult without ageing issues.’
So if you are struggling to remember people’s names, use the ATM or manage the apps on your iPhone, then don’t stress.
You’re not stupid, it’s just that your brain is in cognitive decline. Find a teenager to do it for you.