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Brain power begins to decline from age 45 - study

Scientists researching the nature of dementia say that mental dexterity could begin to decline as early as 45 years of age – not 60 as previously thought.

A real human brain suspended in liquid with a to-scale skeleton, central nervous system and human silhouette carved into acrylic, inside the @Bristol science attraction
A real human brain suspended in liquid with a to-scale skeleton, central nervous system and human silhouette carved into acrylic, inside the @Bristol science attraction
Image: Ben Birchall/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE BRAIN BEGINS to lose its mental dexterity from as young as age 45 – not 60 as previously thought – according to new research.

Cognitive functions like memory, comprehension skills and reasoning may begin to decline from the age of just 45, according to the results of the Whitehall II study – which examined more than 7,000 UK civil servants aged between 45 and 70.

As part of the study, the 5,000 men and 2,000 women were asked to take part in verbal and written tests on three occasions over a period of 10 years. The researchers, led by Archana Singh-Manoux from the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in France and University College London in the UK, expected to see some deterioration of memory and thinking skills in the older age group, but were surprised to note the level of cognitive decline in the younger group.

Researchers noted a 3.6 per cent decline of the mental reasoning of both men and women aged between 45 to 49.

As people aged, a difference in the rate of decline was noted; men aged between 65 to 70 showed a 9.6 per cent decline, while women of the same age showed a 7.4 per cent decline.

Identifying the point at which cognitive decline begins is important, researchers explained, because individuals whose brains deteriorate most rapidly may be more likely to develop dementia in later life. Treatment is also more likely to work if applied as soon as a loss of mental dexterity is noticed.

“This finding potentially has profound implications for prevention of dementia, and public health… efforts to prevent dementia may need to start in adults as young as 45,” wrote Francine Grodstein, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in an editorial accompanying the findings.

Read:  Irish research may lead to Alzheimer’s breakthrough>

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