Mental Aging: Adults & Seniors
Cognitive aging is not a disease. It occurs to everyone as they go through their lifespan. The process is very variable and differs from individual to individual. It depends on many factors such as genetics, overall health, lifestyle, exercise, social activity, type of work and duration of work, medications and others. It is not only about forgetting things and decreasing memory. Cognitive changes are gradual and variable and could impact several cognitive skills. Most commonly are working memory, short and long term memory, attention, processing speed, problem solving and decision making skills. For more detailed information on how cognitive skills are affected by age, press here. Cognitive decline may begin as early as in our thirties but accelerate as we grow older.
There are some diagnoses such as Alzheimer's, dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that need to be conducted by a healthcare professional.
In general, the diagnosis of MCI requires objective evidence of cognitive difficulties that is beyond what would be considered normal, but not bad enough to qualify as dementia and is also different from Alzheimer's. In MCI, cognitive testing should reveal that a person does worse than expected for his/her age and level of education. But the person should still be able to manage daily life tasks.
BrainRx provides a professional cognitive skills evaluation to pinpoint the exact cause of memory problems as well as other cognitive skills that might have deteriorated such as speed and attention. The tests measure all cognitive skills - including memory, processing speed, visual and auditory processing, logic and reasoning, and attention.
Younger to mid-age adults may feel that their processing speed, attention, and memory are not the same. Now a days, adults decide to take additional courses be it to change careers, to revalidate a licensed profession, for continuous education or to expand their knowledge. Many feel they no longer can focus, study, or lean like when they were younger. Our cognitive decline can start as early as in our thirties. Additional symptoms can include:
Struggle remembering things like where keys were placed, names, appointments, or words (tip of the tongue), and small details but remembering them later
Misplacing things but retracting steps to be able to find them later
Difficulty with divided or selective attention - gets distracted easier than before, cannot multi-task as smooth as before
Generally slower in performing tasks
Problem solving, planning and reasoning is tougher
Occasional errors when managing finances
Becoming irritable specially when taken out of a routine
Having a harder time at studying, learning and retaining information than when younger
Feeling as slower or less productive in the work environment
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships causing difficulty with maintaining balance, reading, judging distances, color or contrast, driving
New problems with words in speaking or writing leading to difficulties keeping up with a conversation, getting lost in words, confusing words
Decreased or poor judgment leading to poor grooming, keeping clean, managing money and making decisions
Withdrawal from work or social activities even hobbies
Changes in mood and personality - They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
"A person having dementia means that all five of the following statements are true:
A person is having difficulty with one or more types of mental function. Although it’s common for memory to be affected, other parts of thinking function can be impaired. The 2013 DSM-5 manual lists these six types of cognitive function to consider: learning and memory, language, executive function, complex attention, perceptual-motor function, social cognition.
The difficulties are a decline from the person’s prior level of ability.
The problems are bad enough to impair daily life function. The problems also have to be substantial enough to affect how the person manages usual life, such as work and family responsibilities.
The problems are not due to a reversible condition, such as delirium, or another reversible illness. Common conditions that can cause — or worsen — dementia-like symptoms include hypothyroidism, depression, and medication side-effects.
The problems aren’t better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia." - Kernisan, Leslie, MD, Better Health While Aging
"Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) means having cognitive abilities (memory and thinking skills) that have become worse than “normal” for your age. However, the impairments can’t be bad enough to meet the criteria for dementia." - Kernisan, Leslie, MD, Better Health While Aging
Evaluations: Professional neurological exam to rule out or confirm Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder or brain damage, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or MCI.
If diagnosed, follow proper medication as per professional's recommendations.
Nutrition: You might also be able to reduce the frequency or severity of the symptoms by improving nutrition. Proper nutrition includes complex carbohydrates, fiber, and “good” fats to help maintain glucose levels in the brain. Controlling sugar consumption can also be helpful as well as supplementing with Omegas. Including plenty of varied fruits and vegetables as well as non-processed foods is key to brain health. Ensuring appropriate hydration is also essential for brain function and overall health. IQRx works with our Juice Plus partners in improving nutrition and a healthy lifestyle (mdevarona.juiceplus.com). IQRx counts with support of a licensed nutritionist for additional consultations when needed.
Exercise: Physical exercise is also effective to manage some symptoms and overall brain health. Exercise has been found to reduce brain cell loss, reduce risk of depression and anxiety, and help you sleep better. Exercising regularly increases blood flow therefore achieving better brain oxygenation. Children should exercise 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise including bone and muscle training at least 3 days a week. Adults should exercise at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 of vigorous exercise) and muscle strengthening twice a week.
Sleep Habits: Getting the proper amount of sleep is known to optimize mental functioning. While sleeping, the brain is regenerating neurons and consolidating memory. There are tables to offer guidance as to how much sleep is needed per age. In general, preschoolers (3 - 5 years old) require 10 - 13 hours a day including naps. Elementary students (6 - 12 years old) need 9 - 12 hours a day. Teenagers (13 - 18) need 8 - 10 hours a day and adults (> 18 years old) require at least 7 hours a day. There are natural ways to ensure proper sleep health such as using aromatherapy, essential oils, specific teas, white noise, ensuring no electronics are emitting light, removing mobile phones and other electronics from the room or not keeping them nearby, using melatonin.
Protecting the Brain: Wear helmets when riding bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, horses, etc., and when playing contact sports like football or rugby. Protect the brain from chemical contaminants in the environment as well as in food or by avoiding drugs, cigarette, and alcohol consumption.
Brain Training: Cognitive skills training attacks the root causes of cognitive skills decline by strengthening those skills that are now weaker than before.
At IQRx, while we do not provide diagnoses, the fact is that many of our students come to us with previous diagnoses. We help young, mid-aged and senior adults with these issues because we address the cognitive deficits that are commonly linked to the diagnosis or typical mental aging. In fact, our brain training programs strengthen all critical cognitive skills, which is why adults with different diagnoses who go through our program, experience such significant improvements in school, work, and life.
Cognitive skills training treats the causes of learning and execution struggles to help children, teens, and adults excel in school, sports, the workplace, and extracurricular activities (like sports, music, art, and dance).
IQRx Cognitive Training Programs Include:
Certain activities can increase the number of connections between brain cells, strengthening memory. Trivia, crosswords and memory games are all good choices.
Others: Maintain a healthy blood pressure and sugar levels as well as a healthy weight. Stay engaged and socially active.
The Alzheimer’s Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Better Health While Aging
Cognitive Aging Guide
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Brain Training Results
BrainRx training was beneficial to understand who I am, my areas of strength and weakness. It was good to work with others on the exercises. It was worth the commitment. I feel it has helped me focus on areas of weakness that I can continue to work on, to improve and have a more fulfilled life.
- Caroline S.