Cognitive Decline May Begin As Early As Age 45

With evidence of faster cognitive decline among older people

FRIDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive functioning, including memory, reasoning, and comprehension skills, can start to deteriorate as early as age 45 and declines even faster in men and women over age 65, according to a large, prospective study published online Jan. 5 in BMJ.

Archana Singh-Manoux, Ph.D., of the University College London, and colleagues observed civil servants (5,198 men and 2,192 women) over 10 years. The participants, part of the Whitehall II study, were aged 45 to 70 years when cognitive testing began in 1997 to 1999. Memory, reasoning, vocabulary, and phonemic and semantic fluency were assessed three times over the study period.

The researchers found declines in all cognitive scores, except for vocabulary, in all five age categories (45 to 49, 50 to 54, 55 to 59, 60 to 64, and 65 to 70 years at baseline), with evidence of faster decline in older people. In men, mental reasoning declined 3.6 percent in 10 years for those aged 45 to 49 at baseline and dropped 9.6 percent in those aged 65 to 70 at baseline. In women, the corresponding decline was 3.6 and 7.4 percent, respectively.

"Cognitive decline is already evident in middle age (age 45 to 49)," the authors conclude.

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