8 August 2009

Successful cognitive aging

Maintenance of cognitive function in people of advanced ages
Alzheimer's Australia Dementia News: 6 August 2009
A number of risk factors for cognitive decline are known, but much less is known about which factors might predict the maintenance of cognitive function in those of advanced ages.

A group of researchers, led by Dr Yaffe from the University of California, used the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination to evaluate cognitive function over time in 2509 wellfunctioning older people who were enrolled in a prospective study — the Health ABC Study. Cognitive function was examined at the beginning of the study and then again after three, five, and eight years. At the end of the eighth year, 30% of participants had maintained normal cognitive function, 53% showed minor cognitive decline, and 16% had major cognitive decline.

Statistical analysis showed that those participants who maintained cognitive function had a unique profile that differentiated them from those with minor decline. The factors that were significantly associated with maintaining normal cognitive function were age; race (white people maintained cognitive function for longer than black people); having received education to high-school level or greater; having ninth-grade literacy level or greater; engaging in weekly moderate to vigorous exercise; and not smoking.

The researchers also noted that factors associated with cognitive maintenance may differ from factors associated with major cognitive decline. If this notion is supported through further research, then it could lead to differentiation of prevention strategies from treatment strategies.

Because some of the factors associated with maintenance of cognitive function can be modified, it might be profitable to embed them in programs that promote successful cognitive aging.

Reference: Yaffe K, Fiocco AJ, Lindquist K, Vittinghoff E, Simonsick EM, Newman AB, Satterfield S, Rosano C, Rubin SM, Ayonayon HN, Harris TB. 2009. Predictors of maintaining cognitive function in older adults. Neurology 72:2029-2035.

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