Cognitive Decline begins in Mid-Life
I’m pretty sure, anecdotally speaking, that if one was to ask a room full of 65 year olds if they had noticed any change in their memory over the past few years most would say they had. I’m equally sure that if one asked a room of 45 year olds the same question the answer would be quite different. The findings of a recent study have however radically suggested that there are significant decreases in cognitive function seen in men as early as 45-49 years of age.
It appears therefore that the notion of a decrease in cognitive function as we get older is actually also true at a relatively younger age. This recent research, published in the British Medical Journal, was a study that spanning ten years, where researchers in both the UK and France found that although the greatest rate of cognitive decline occurred, as expected, in older subjects (for example men aged 65-70 showed an almost 10% reduction in cognitive function) there was also a significant reduction of almost 4% in men aged 45-49. This fascinating study suggests that the seeds of cognitive decline are sewn much earlier than previously thought, and that there is a recordable pre-amble that might be of diagnostic use in cases of dementia.
So what does this mean? At face value it suggests that cognitive decline is not a phenomena solely associated with older adults. But more importantly, it might suggest that in the future clinicians might be able to detect the earliest hints of cognitive decline during middle age, and therefore aggressively target individuals who might at risk of developing dementia.
Source: Singh-Manoux A et al, 2012, Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study, BMJ 2012; 344: d7622
James Brown PhD