Aging is a natural and inevitable part of life. The mental and physical faculties that people obtain as they grow up eventually start to decline as they get older, causing more mental and physical effects that change their lives. For the human brain, the normal changes that come with aging inevitably effect and change it. Psychological research has found that there are typical changes that occur in the brain as people age, especially when they hit 40.
The 40-year-old age range and beyond is when many people begin to notice changes in their cognition, memory and speech. They have to work harder at planning and organizing, have difficulty remembering things and have to make up for where the brain volume declines, 20 years after its peak. According to the American Psychological Association, the cortexes in the brain begin to shrink, including the parietal cortex, which affects visuomotor processing and performance, and the medial temporal are, which affects memory construction and flexible thinking. Researchers have use neuroimaging and increasingly sensitive tests to refute the idea that as people get older, they go into a mental decline. What they are doing instead of supporting that claim is creating a model of deficits that show varying and differing rates of decline for certain things among individuals.
For example, episodic, source and flashbulb memory decline the most in individuals after 40, which corresponds to recalling earlier parts of a day, recalling where they learned something and remembering where they were at a certain and monumental part of their lives of general history, respectively. On the contrary, semantic memory, i.e., words, and procedural memory decline the least. The changes are not in a decline in brain storage, but function due to interference and retrieval of information.
Memory changes and decline are personal concerns in patients as they grow older and not just psychologists. Gary W. Small for the British Medical Journal wrote of age related memory loss and how today’s doctors trained during a time where there was limited medical information on these topics. His paper is for doctors and medical professionals, providing a strategy for assessing age related memory loss and protecting brain health in aging patients. He advises doctors to be cautious about unproven ways for slowing brain aging and encourages them to emphasize that aging is a natural part of life.
Lifestyle choices can protect people with mild forms of age related memory loss by serving them not only mentally, but physically as well. Risk factors that should trigger a screen for memory include illnesses that can contribute to the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer’s, or a family history of it. Memory loss screening and assessment begins with determining if people fall into one of the three categories of memory loss: memory impairment associated with age, dementia or mild cognitive impairment. As for treatment options, certain types of therapy and supplements are recommended to delay cognitive and functional decline, yet lifestyle choice changes are highly preferred instead of drug treatments. Eating healthier, keeping with mentally challenging activities and stress reduction are highly recommended to keep brain health and memory performance on the incline instead of a decline.
On an anecdotal basis, older people report that doing intellectually challenging activities, as well as being physically active, helps them stay sharp. Activities such as volunteering, learning, puzzles and others are important, as well as a supportive social network, serve them in maintaining their mental and cognitive functions. While the objective evidence is limited, anything that is good for the body is good for the brain. These activities still help older adults adjust to normal changes that come with aging.