Does getting older automatically mean going senile as well?
Are there things that can be done to ward off cognitive decline or are diseases such as Alzheimer’s inevitable?
Many discoveries made in the [last 40] years since have given us better tools to study memory storage, resulting in a major shift away from the view of “aging as a disease” and towards the view of “aging as a risk factor” for neurological diseases. So why do some people age gracefully, exhibiting relatively minor—and at worst annoying—cognitive changes, while others manifest significant and disabling memory decline? Answers to these questions are fundamental for understanding both how to prevent disease and how to promote quality of life.Looking back on the rather grim expectations concerning memory and the elderly that were held only a few decades ago, the vision today is very different and much more positive. There are many who live to very old ages with minimal cognitive decline—and certainly no dementia. One particularly interesting study in this regard followed individuals who were 100 years of age (centenarians) at the beginning of the study until the time of their death, monitoring cognitive function and other factors in the “oldest old.” Interestingly, 73 percent of these centenarians were dementia free at the end of their lives (the oldest reaching an age of 111 years). Watching the remarkable discoveries in biology over the past half century, one cannot help but look with excitement towards the next groundbreaking findings that are surely in the making. The future holds great promise for the once remote dream of understanding the core biological processes required for optimal cognitive health during aging—and progress in this regard should also provide the needed backdrop for understanding and preventing the complex neurological diseases that can be superimposed on the aging brain.
Learn more about why so many are able to age “successfully” as well as better understand the biology behind memory in this September article of The Scientist here: