Cognitive decline is an epidemic affecting millions of people every day. We are in a state of cognitive decline when our mental sharpness is impaired, when our wit is not as quick as it used to be. We become forgetful and slow to mentally react.
The earlier stages of cognitive decline are referred to as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The symptoms of MCI naturally occur as we age, but important to pay attention to because they may be a sign for future onset of more serious cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are approximately 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s and of these, 5.3 million are over the age of 65. This number is expected to grow, not decrease. Brain health is a very serious consideration.
Aging is inevitable and cannot be prevented. As we grow older, just like all parts of our bodies, our brains will begin to function at a slower speed. It won’t work as well as it used to.
Another uncontrollable risk factor of MCI is a gene knows as, APOE-e4. Everyone carries two copies of the APOE gene (Combinations of E2, E3 or E4), however, those carrying a copy that includes E4 are at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia (late onset, which is most common). This may sound scary, but keep in mind it is not a definitive cause and effect, just a possibility.
To learn more about the APOE gene you can follow this link.
There are also lifestyle factors that may contribute to cognitive decline. Poor diet and exercise habits, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking may cause brain impairment. Stress, social isolation and limited intellectual stimulation may also play a role. These are the kinds of risk factors that are controllable and we can do something about.
The symptoms and outcomes of cognitive decline might be obvious, but nonetheless worth pointing out. The symptoms are not just cognitive, but there are also physical and emotional symptoms as well.
These are some of the most common symptoms:
- Cognitive: Memory loss, confusion, loss of train of thought, impulsive and show poor judgement.
- Physical: Blurry vision, poor motor coordination, and the inability to maintain proper mannerisms, such as balance and posture.
- Emotional: Moodiness and irritability, depression, anxiety and apathy.
Cognitive decline is progressive. Symptoms slowly worsen over time. People are sometimes flippant about what they call their “flakiness.” However, it may be no laughing matter. We all have our moments of confusion and forgetfulness, and it may mean nothing. However, paying attention and noticing small changes (in ourselves and our loved ones) in brain function may be a signal for major challenges in the years to come. Being prepared is your best defense.
This post serves as the beginning of the discussion. As we keep the conversation going we will talk more about the details and ways in which we can keep our brains healthy. Knowledge is power and proactive attention to our health will serve as the best benefit in the long-run.