Our brain’s age often isn’t the same as our chronological age. For example, a person could be 60 years old and have a brain age of 50 or perhaps 70. You have significant control over your brain’s age.
While not as comprehensive as a brain scan or evaluation by a neurologist, a few basic questions can help you get a sense of your brain’s age.
It’s not uncommon to misplace our keys or forget an appointment occasionally, but any signs of increasing forgetfulness should be addressed. A condition called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) impacts approximately 12 to 18% of those over age 65. MCI isn’t dementia but a sign of memory issues and decreasing cognitive function. It can be a precursor and raise the risk of developing dementia.1
The notion that significant memory loss is a normal part of the aging process is a myth. Recall can also be a use-it-or-lose-it skill. Since most of the things we want to recall are stored in our phones, we need to be more intentional about remembering information without relying on them. Practicing recall further strengthens our memories.2
Our brain controls our balance, which is another use-it-or-lose-it skill. As we get older, we tend to participate in fewer activities that keep our balance strong.3 Loss of balance increases the risk of falls, which can lead to head injuries. Head injuries, in turn, increase dementia risk.
Studies have shown that walking speed is correlated with memory function. You don’t need to power walk everywhere you go but consider short bursts of brisk walking, even for a couple of minutes a day. A new study found that just nine minutes per day of intense walking can improve memory.4
There’s a powerful connection between your perspective and healthy aging. Studies show that people who have a positive attitude toward aging can reduce their chances of developing dementia by 50%.5
You might be wondering how to answer these questions? For example, “Walking fast or balancing relative to what?” Rather than trying to compare your ability to a universal standard or other people, answer the questions according to trends over time. For example, are you able to walk as fast and long as you were a few years ago, or have you noticed a significant slowdown?
Mild cognitive decline can be a natural part of aging and isn’t a reason to panic. But if your answers indicate you may be experiencing more than that, consider having an evaluation by healthcare professional.
Talk to your financial professional about how brain health could affect your finances
1 Marisa K. Heckner et al., “The Aging Brain and Executive Functions Revisited: Implications from Meta-analytic and Functional-Connectivity Evidence,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 33, no. 9 (2021): 1716–1752, https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01616
2 Philip C. Ko et al., “Understanding age-related reductions in visual working memory capacity: Examining the stages of change detection,” Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 76 (2014): 2015–2030, https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-013-0585-z.
3 Rachael D. Seidler et al., “Motor control and aging: links to age-related brain structural, functional, and biochemical effects,“ Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 34, no. 5 (2010): 721–733, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.10.005.
4 Line Jee Hartmann Rasmussen et al., “Association of Neurocognitive and Physical Function With Gait Speed in Midlife,” JAMA Network Open 2, no. 10 (2019): e1913123, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13123; Stephanie Studenski, “Gait Speed Reveals Clues to Lifelong Health,” JAMA Network Open 2, no. 10 (2019) e1913112, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.13112.
5 Seyul Kwak et al., “Feeling How Old I Am: Subjective Age Is Associated With Estimated Brain Age,” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 10 (2018), https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2018.00168.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. If you are concerned about your brain health or cognitive function, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor or a healthcare professional, who can evaluate your cognitive function and provide recommendations for management and treatment, if necessary.
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