Cognitive Decline

cognitive decline

Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Cognitive decline encompasses the progressive weakening of cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, attention, etc. Cognitive decline and mental health are inversely related to each other, the former often enhancing the risk of mental health disorders in the long run.   

What Is Cognitive Decline?

Cognitive decline refers to the gradual deterioration of cognitive functions 1 Dhakal, A., & Bobrin, B. D. (2022). Cognitive Deficits. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559052/#:~:text=Cognitive%20deficits%20may%20accompany%20symptoms , such as memory, attention, reasoning, and problem-solving abilities, that occurs as a natural part of the aging process or due to underlying medical conditions. It involves a decrease in a person’s cognitive abilities that can impact their daily functioning and quality of life.

The symptoms of cognitive decline can vary in severity, ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to more severe forms of cognitive impairment, such as dementia. It impacts 5.1-41% of the global population 2 Pais, R., Ruano, L., P Carvalho, O., & Barros, H. (2020). Global Cognitive Impairment Prevalence and Incidence in Community Dwelling Older Adults-A Systematic Review. Geriatrics (Basel, Switzerland)5(4), 84. https://doi.org/10.3390/geriatrics5040084 every year.

Read More About Attention Here

Symptoms Of Cognitive Decline

The common symptoms of cognitive decline include 3 Jessen, F., Amariglio, R. E., Buckley, R. F., van der Flier, W. M., Han, Y., Molinuevo, J. L., Rabin, L., Rentz, D. M., Rodriguez-Gomez, O., Saykin, A. J., Sikkes, S. A. M., Smart, C. M., Wolfsgruber, S., & Wagner, M. (2020). The characterisation of subjective cognitive decline. The Lancet. Neurology19(3), 271–278. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30368-0 :

  • Memory Issues: Forgetfulness of recent events or conversations, frequent misplacement of objects.
  • Communication Challenges: Difficulty finding words, repeating questions or stories.
  • Decision-Making Problems: Struggling with judgments, poor problem-solving abilities.
  • Disorientation: Getting lost, confusion about time, date, or location.
  • Impaired Concentration: Inability to focus, difficulty following instructions.
  • Reduced Motor Skills: Trouble with coordination, difficulty in routine activities.
  • Personality And Mood Changes: Increased irritability or apathy, mood swings.
  • Social Withdrawal: Decreased interest in social activities, difficulty engaging.
  • Loss Of Independence: needing more help with tasks, managing finances.
  • Confusion With Familiar Activities: struggling with routine tasks, recognizing faces inconsistently.

Read More About Memory Here

Causes Of Cognitive Decline

The various causes 4 Koliatsos V. E. (2016). A Clinical Approach to Cognitive Impairment. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing)14(4), 437–447. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.20160026 that trigger the symptoms of cognitive decline include:

  • Normal developmental aging.
  • Neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Vascular issues like reduced blood flow, etc.
  • Genetics and an inherited predisposition to cognitive decline.
  • Brain injuries, like traumatic brain injury.
  • Chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, etc.
  • Side effects of medication like antidepressants, etc.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns and an unhealthy diet
  • Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Read More About Depression Here

Cognitive Processes That Decline Naturally With Age

The symptoms of cognitive decline are not always triggered by unnatural causes; these can also be caused by the natural aging process 5 Klimova, B., Valis, M., & Kuca, K. (2017). Cognitive decline in normal aging and its prevention: a review on non-pharmacological lifestyle strategies. Clinical interventions in aging12, 903–910. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S132963 —impacting:

  • Thinking: Slower information processing and reduced complex reasoning.
  • Attention: Difficulty focusing on tasks and maintaining concentration.
  • Perception: Altered interpretation of sensory information.
  • Memory: Reduced recall of recent and past events.
  • Learning: Challenges in acquiring and retaining new information.
  • Judgment: Impaired ability to assess situations accurately.
  • Decision-Making: Struggles in making sound choices based on information.

Read More About Decision-Making Here

Cognitive Decline And Mental Health

Cognitive decline and mental health are inversely related to each other. Cognitive decline leads to frustration, anxiety, and reduced self-esteem due to diminishing abilities.

Depression can emerge as individuals struggle with loss of control and isolation due to communication difficulties, impacting their overall sense of purpose and satisfaction. Caregivers also face emotional stress, burnout, and sadness—contributing to strained relationships and community-wide challenges 6 Gray, M., Gills, J. L., Glenn, J. M., Vincenzo, J. L., Walter, C. S., Madero, E. N., Hall, A., Fuseya, N., & Bott, N. T. (2021). Cognitive decline negatively impacts physical function. Experimental gerontology143, 111164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2020.111164 .

Mental Health Conditions Associated With Cognitive Decline

Research 7 Morozova, A., Zorkina, Y., Abramova, O., Pavlova, O., Pavlov, K., Soloveva, K., Volkova, M., Alekseeva, P., Andryshchenko, A., Kostyuk, G., Gurina, O., & Chekhonin, V. (2022). Neurobiological Highlights of Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatric Disorders. International journal of molecular sciences23(3), 1217. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031217 confirms the close association between cognitive decline and mental health disorders, including:

  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Stress disorders
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Read More About Dementia Here

How To Diagnose Cognitive Decline

Diagnosing the symptoms of cognitive decline involves a holistic approach 8 McCollum, L., & Karlawish, J. (2020). Cognitive Impairment Evaluation and Management. The Medical clinics of North America104(5), 807–825. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2020.06.007 , combining medical history, physical examinations, cognitive screening tests, neuro-psychological evaluations, brain imaging, laboratory tests, genetic analysis, and clinical assessments by specialists.

This comprehensive process helps differentiate normal aging from pathological decline, enabling early intervention, appropriate management, and support for affected individuals and their caregivers. 

How To Reverse Cognitive Decline

Measures on how to reverse cognitive decline usually involves a multifaceted approach  comprising of: 

  • Professional treatment methods 9 Wray, L. O., Mavandadi, S., Klaus, J. R., Tew, J. D., Jr, Oslin, D. W., & Sweet, R. A. (2012). The association between mental health and cognitive screening scores in older veterans. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry20(3), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e3182410cdb like therapy and support groups offer emotional assistance to both individuals and caregivers coping with cognitive decline.
  • Light therapy utilizes specific light wavelengths to affect brain function, circadian rhythms, mood, sleep, and cognitive performance, potentially assisting in reversing cognitive decline.
  • Some medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, are prescribed to manage symptoms of cognitive decline, especially in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Neurofeedback enables individuals to enhance cognitive function and potentially reverse cognitive decline by self-regulating brain activity through real-time monitoring of neural patterns and receiving brainwave activity feedback.
  • Cogmed Working Memory Training is a structured cognitive training program designed to improve working memory, a crucial aspect of cognitive function.
  • Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning (CVAC) employs controlled atmospheric pressure and oxygen changes to potentially enhance cellular function, oxygenation, circulation, and brain health, aiding cognitive restoration.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation is designed to strengthen cognitive abilities and enhance memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.

How To Prevent Cognitive Decline

Consider the following measures 10 Taylor, W. D., & Reynolds, C. F., 3rd (2020). Psychiatry’s Obligation to Treat and Mitigate the Rising Burden of Age-Related Mental Disorders. JAMA psychiatry77(1), 5–6. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2111 on how to prevent cognitive decline:

  • Brain Exercises: Puzzles, games for cognitive challenge.
  • Physical Activity: Exercise for better brain blood flow.
  • Healthy Diet: Nutrient-rich foods, omega-3s.
  • Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep aids memory.
  • Stress Reduction: Deep breathing, meditation.
  • Social Interaction: Stay connected for engagement.
  • Mental Stimulation: Read, learn, be creative.
  • Limit Alcohol And Smoking: Reduce both for brain health.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated for cognitive function.
  • Routine: Maintain a consistent daily schedule.

Read More About Stress Here

Cognitive Decline Tests
Cognitive Decline Tests

Takeaway

In the intricate landscape of cognitive decline, where memory, thought, and identity intertwine, our understanding of its multifaceted nature is a beacon of hope. As we unravel the causes, symptoms, and potential interventions, we pave the way for improved quality of life, not only for those affected but also for their families and communities.

The recognition that cognitive decline is not an inevitable fate but a challenge that can be met with proactive measures inspires us to foster resilience, compassion, and continuous learning.

By embracing the power of knowledge, compassion, and collaboration, we embark on a journey toward a world where cognitive well-being is nurtured, and each step is a testament to our commitment to preserving the essence of who we are.

At A Glance

  • Cognitive decline, a natural part of aging, impacts cognitive functions and mental health.
  • The symptoms of cognitive decline include memory issues, communication challenges, and disorientation.
  • Causes of cognitive decline range from aging to neurodegenerative diseases and chronic conditions.
  • Measures on how to reverse cognitive decline involve cognitive training, medications, and support.
  • Measures on how to prevent cognitive decline emphasize changes in lifestyle factors for brain development and mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What protects adults from cognitive decline?

Engaging in regular physical exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and staying mentally active can help protect adults from cognitive decline.

2. How do you monitor cognitive decline?

Cognitive decline can be monitored through regular assessments, cognitive tests, and medical evaluations conducted by healthcare professionals.

3. What if my family or friends show symptoms of cognitive decline?

If family or friends exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline, it’s important to encourage them to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and intervention.

References:

  • 1
     Dhakal, A., & Bobrin, B. D. (2022). Cognitive Deficits. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. Available from : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559052/#:~:text=Cognitive%20deficits%20may%20accompany%20symptoms
  • 2
     Pais, R., Ruano, L., P Carvalho, O., & Barros, H. (2020). Global Cognitive Impairment Prevalence and Incidence in Community Dwelling Older Adults-A Systematic Review. Geriatrics (Basel, Switzerland)5(4), 84. https://doi.org/10.3390/geriatrics5040084
  • 3
     Jessen, F., Amariglio, R. E., Buckley, R. F., van der Flier, W. M., Han, Y., Molinuevo, J. L., Rabin, L., Rentz, D. M., Rodriguez-Gomez, O., Saykin, A. J., Sikkes, S. A. M., Smart, C. M., Wolfsgruber, S., & Wagner, M. (2020). The characterisation of subjective cognitive decline. The Lancet. Neurology19(3), 271–278. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30368-0
  • 4
     Koliatsos V. E. (2016). A Clinical Approach to Cognitive Impairment. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing)14(4), 437–447. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.focus.20160026
  • 5
     Klimova, B., Valis, M., & Kuca, K. (2017). Cognitive decline in normal aging and its prevention: a review on non-pharmacological lifestyle strategies. Clinical interventions in aging12, 903–910. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S132963
  • 6
     Gray, M., Gills, J. L., Glenn, J. M., Vincenzo, J. L., Walter, C. S., Madero, E. N., Hall, A., Fuseya, N., & Bott, N. T. (2021). Cognitive decline negatively impacts physical function. Experimental gerontology143, 111164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2020.111164
  • 7
     Morozova, A., Zorkina, Y., Abramova, O., Pavlova, O., Pavlov, K., Soloveva, K., Volkova, M., Alekseeva, P., Andryshchenko, A., Kostyuk, G., Gurina, O., & Chekhonin, V. (2022). Neurobiological Highlights of Cognitive Impairment in Psychiatric Disorders. International journal of molecular sciences23(3), 1217. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031217
  • 8
     McCollum, L., & Karlawish, J. (2020). Cognitive Impairment Evaluation and Management. The Medical clinics of North America104(5), 807–825. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2020.06.007
  • 9
    Wray, L. O., Mavandadi, S., Klaus, J. R., Tew, J. D., Jr, Oslin, D. W., & Sweet, R. A. (2012). The association between mental health and cognitive screening scores in older veterans. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry20(3), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e3182410cdb
  • 10
     Taylor, W. D., & Reynolds, C. F., 3rd (2020). Psychiatry’s Obligation to Treat and Mitigate the Rising Burden of Age-Related Mental Disorders. JAMA psychiatry77(1), 5–6. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.2111
8 Indications to recognize the signs of Social Anxiety 10 Ways to Cope With Overthinking Daily Mindfulness: Simple Practices for a Better Life 8 Steps to Enhance Your Father’s Well-being Journey 6 healing strategies to cope with trauma 8 ways exercise can boost your mental health 8 ways to cope with the signs of panic attack 7 Mental Health Benefits Of Watching Rom-Coms 10 Reasons Why People Find Horoscopes Comforting 10 Breathing Exercises For Mental Health How To Have A Mental Health Conversation With Your Partner 8 Tips To Overcome Trauma