Two new studies shed both a hopeful light and a cautionary one on brain-related capabilities of the elderly.
First, a study published in Child Development says that senior citizens can be as mentally agile as young adults. And although many seniors take longer to answer a question or offer a response, the main reason is usually that they are more concerned with accuracy than, say, young adults, who answer much faster on average. And accuracy, after all, is important.
This should be seen as good news for anyone concerned about age-related mental deterioration.
However, another study, this one published in the medical journal Neurology, says that about one in four seniors has suffered from a kind of stroke that can lead to memory problems.
The study says these kinds of strokes are caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to a part of the brain. They are often called “silent strokes” because people are often unaware that they’ve experienced them.
Risk factors for silent stroke include high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.
What to make of these two studies? First of all, minor lapses of memory are normal and should be no cause for alarm. And no one should underestimate the mental agility of seniors. Often, their experience and wisdom far surpass any small declines in cognitive function their age may cause.
However, if you or a loved one has persistent memory problems – especially if the forgetfulness involves major issues such as the identity of a family member – seek medical attention immediately.
And continue to be vigilant about avoiding or managing risk factors for stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity can all be controlled by lifestyle choices, medicine or a combination. So take care of your health now and avoid memory problems as you age.