Your memory can be affected by stress, sleeplessness and fatigue, certain illnesses and medication, or time. The human brain is fallible, and it is normal to forget or misremember details and experiences.
However, if you have become increasingly forgetful with age should be checked by a general practitioner. It might be dementia.
More Than Just Ageing
Dementia is not one specific disease. It is a general term used to describe the condition in which people’s ability to remember, think, make decisions, or pay attention are significantly impaired. Those who have dementia do not just occasionally misplace their car keys or the television remote. They forget the name of their friends or family, get lost on their way home, and lose old memories.
Moreover, at some point, they may become unable to complete simple daily tasks. They will have to be admitted to a residential care facility or home where a professional can look after their needs.
Age is the most common risk factor for dementia. Those who are over the age of 65 are more likely to experience impaired cognitive function. However, family history, race and ethnicity, poor health, and prior traumatic brain injury can also increase a person’s risk of dementia.
There is still no cure for dementia, but studies have identified ways to effectively slow the progression of the disease. In fact, in recent research, scientists found that people who work in mentally stimulating jobs and those who retired later in their lives are far less likely to have dementia.
Your Life’s Work
For the study, researchers followed over 100,000 participants across the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. The goal is to investigate the link between work and chronic disease, disability, and mortality. The study also included a range of occupations, including civil servants, employees in the public sector, and forestry workers.
While it has been previously suggested that cognitive stimulation can have an impact on a person’s risk of dementia, the tests have been small and non-conclusive. This new one provides clear evidence that there is an association between cognitive stimulation at work and a lower risk of dementia.
The researchers offered an explanation. They said that cognitive stimulation is linked to lower levels of protein that are known to inhibit brain function among people with dementia. Among the study participants, because they were exposed to cognitive stimulation at work for decades, the impact is significant. The incidence of dementia in participants with high cognitive stimulation at work was 4.8 per 10,000 people versus 7.3 per 10,000 among those who had low cognitive-stimulating jobs.
Other factors such as age, sex, educational attainment, and lifestyle were also taken into account.
A separate study also found a link between a lower risk of dementia and late retirement. While leaving the workforce early is a dream for many, continuing to toil well into your senior years may be beneficial to the brain.
The research used data from more than 20,000 Americans. The researchers used statistical methods to see what would happen if all of these people continued to work until at least the age of 67. They found that delaying retirement made it possible for people to retain mental sharpness in their older adulthood.
Working past the age of 60 forces people to exercise their cognitive facilities for much longer. In comparison, those who retired early may have fewer opportunities to keep their minds engaged and stimulated.
Moreover, the researchers found that the impact of late retirement on the brain can persist for five more years.
Keeping the Mind Busy
People do not have to keep working through their senior years to prevent dementia. Having a job that requires lower cognitive function does not necessarily mean you will get dementia later in life, either. Both studies prove that mental stimulation is one major step to keep the decline of cognitive function at bay.
Previous studies have found that lifelong reading improves memory and reduces the risk of dementia. Playing board games and card games is also good for overall brain health.
Moreover, maintaining a physically active lifestyle will also benefit the brain. A study in mice proved that exercise improves the metabolism of iron in the brain which reduces the circulation of a protein that promotes inflammation and is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dementia is a horrible illness that affects over 850,000 people in the United Kingdom. One in 14 over the age of 65 are living with dementia. It is more common among those who are over the age of 80, in which the prevalence is one in 6 people. More research is needed to find out how to prevent and delay this notorious illness.