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Cognitive Decline

Dementia is preceded by cognitive decline. However, not everyone who is exposed to dementia risk factors will go on to develop cognitive impairment.

The concept of cognitive reserve has been proposed as a protective factor that may reduce the risk of the clinical onset of dementia and cognitive decline. Cognitive reserve refers to the brain’s ability to cope with or compensate for neuropathology or damage. Studies have shown that increased cognitive activity may stimulate (or increase) cognitive reserve and have a buffering effect against rapid cognitive decline as well as a significant reduction in the risk of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's diagnosis in those who reported high compared with low levels of cognitive activities.

Symptoms

  • Memory Loss: The first form of cognitive impairment primarily affects memory. A person may start to forget important information that he or she would previously have recalled easily, such as appointments, conversations, or recent events.
  • Non-memory Impairment: The second form of cognitive impairment affects thinking skills other than memory, including the ability to make sound decisions, judge the time or sequence of steps needed to complete a complex task or visual perception.

Causes

The causes of mild cognitive impairment are not yet completely understood. Experts believe that many cases — but not all — result from brain changes occurring in the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. However, there are some common causes of cognitive impairment in older adults:

  • Side-effects to medication
  • Metabolic imbalances as a result of abnormalities in blood chemistry
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Deficiencies in nutrients and other vitamins
  • Neurodegenerative condition
  • Brain injuries
  • Chronic or acute infections
  • Substance abuse

Impact on Alzheimers

  • Dementia and cognitive impairment are not a part of normal brain ageing; they are diagnosable conditions.
  • Normal brain ageing results in an average decline in some cognitive functions (speed of thinking, working memory) across the population whereas other functions (e.g. verbal ability) are maintained.
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) affects between 5 and 20 percent of the population aged 65 or over. It affects cognitive function to a greater extent than would be expected, but not to such extent that it precludes independent living.
  • Some cases of MCI are treatable. Some cases (one in six) progress to dementia within a year.

Based on the cognitive reserve hypothesis, evidence from epidemiological studies shows that low education and cognitive inactivity constitute major risk factors for dementia. Consistent results from a large number of observational studies that measured cognitive activity in late life suggest that cognitive stimulation might be beneficial for both brain structure and function. It has been found that people with higher IQ, level of education, or occupational complexity tend to show less severe symptoms in the presence of the disease of dementia.

Evidence from epidemiological studies shows that low education constitutes a major risk factor for dementia. (Photo: Pixabay)

Digital Solutions

Lumosity


Lumosity is an interactive cognitive training program to train your brain and learn about how your mind works. The app & web-based program consists of science-based games designed to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem-solving. You can begin the program with a free 10-minute Fit Test to set your baseline scores and see how you compare with others your age. Using the program you can work out with a fresh set of games each day to keep you challenged. You can also track your detailed progress to help maintain your brain training habit.

Silver Brain

Silver Brain is a web-based program to help test and improve your cognitive and intellectual capabilities. The platform uses evidence-based games to help build mental fitness through building daily healthy habits. Users of the platform have an individualized format where they can choose the focus areas and pace for themselves. The extent of the positive effects on the brain will depend on the individual aspects and characteristics of the players.

Elevate

Elevate is a brain training program designed to improve attention, speaking skills, processing speed, memory, math skills, and more. Each user is provided with his or her own personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximize results. The developers claim that the more you train with Elevate, the more you’ll improve critical cognitive skills that are designed to boost productivity, earning power, and self-confidence. Users who train at least 3 times per week have reported dramatic gains and increased confidence.

Support

Alzheimer’s disease often leads to a devastating experience for not just the patient but also their families. The social and economic burden of the disease often strain existing relationships and it is important to seek help and support in those vulnerable times. Research has shown that a cognitively active lifestyle may protect against cognitive decline or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Through our community forum, EnableMe strives to provide a platform where people who are going through similar situations can share their experiences, best practices and offer support. Through this platform, you will be directed to cognitive activity resources, both offline and online, that will help you find the tools and support that you need. 

Link to community

Link to group