Cognitive Ability

Early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline

Early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline among the elderly, according to research conducted by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Plamen Nikolov, assistant professor of economics, and Alan Adelman, a doctoral student in economics, examined China’s New Rural Pension Scheme (NRPS) and the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS) to determine the effects of pension benefits on individual cognition of those ages 60 or above. CHARLS, a nationally representative survey of people ages 45 and above within the Chinese population, is a sister survey of the U.S. Health and Retirement Survey and directly tests cognition with a focus on episodic memory and components of intact mental status.

With a higher life expectancy and decline in fertility in developing countries, the elderly population has become the largest demographic source in Asia and Latin America, generating an urgent need for new, sustainable pension systems. However, research suggests that these retirement plans can be detrimental, as retirement plays a significant role in explaining cognitive decline at older ages.

“Because of this large demographic boom, China introduced a formal pension program (called NRPS) in rural parts of the country. The program was introduced on the basis of an economy’s needs and capacity, in particular to alleviate poverty in old age,” said Nikolov. “In rural parts of the country, traditional family-based care for the elderly had largely broken down, without adequate formal mechanisms to take its place. For the elderly, inadequate transfers from either informal family and community transfers could severely reduce their ability to cope with illness or poor nutrition.”

The researchers discovered that there were significant negative effects of pension benefits on cognition functioning among the elderly. The largest indicator of cognitive decline was delayed recall, a measure that is widely implicated in neurobiological research as an important predictor of dementia. The pension program had more negative effects among females, and Nikolov said the results support the mental retirement hypothesis that decreased mental activity results in the worsening of cognitive skills.

“Individuals in the areas that implement the NRPS score considerably lower than individuals who live in areas that do not offer the NRPS program,” Nikolov said. “Over the almost 10 years since its implementation, the program led to a decline in cognitive performance by as high as almost a fifth of a standard deviation on the memory measures we examine.”

“For cognition among the elderly, it looks like the negative effect on social engagement far outweighed the positive effect of the program on nutrition and sleep,” said Nikolov. “Or alternatively, the kinds of things that matter and determine better health might simply be very different than the kinds of things that matter for better cognition among the elderly. Social engagement and connectedness may simply be the single most powerful factors for cognitive performance in old age.”

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Source: ScienceDaily

Eating Green Leafy Vegetables Keeps Mental Abilities Sharp

Food.Vegetables1Something as easy as adding more spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens to your diet could help slow cognitive decline, according to new research. The study also examined the nutrients responsible for the effect, linking vitamin K consumption to slower cognitive decline for the first time.

“Losing one’s memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older,” said Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., assistant provost for community research at Rush University Medical Center and leader of the research team. “Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

The researchers tracked the diets and cognitive abilities of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years and saw a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline for study participants who consumed greater amounts of green leafy vegetables. People who ate one to two servings per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none.

In addition to green leafy vegetables, other good sources of vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene include brightly colored fruits and vegetables.

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Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “Eating green leafy vegetables keeps mental abilities sharp.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2015.

Your Mentally Stimulating Job May Help Keep You Sharp in Retirement

Body.Brain.Puzzle1Jobs that make good use of your intellect might have another benefit down the line – a sharper mind long after retirement.

People with jobs that require problem solving, planning and information analysis appear more likely to retain a clear memory and keen reasoning as they grow older, said lead author Gwen Fisher, an assistant professor of psychology at Colorado State University.

“People who were engaged in work characterized as mentally challenging scored better on a measure of cognitive [thinking] ability, both before and after retirement,” Fisher said.

This new study adds to a growing mound of evidence suggesting that people who want to keep their brain healthy after retirement need to start working their mental muscles earlier in life, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It gels really nicely with other things we’ve seen where midlife is the point at which people really need to pay attention to their brain health,” Fargo said.

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Source: MedicineNet.


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