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We're Older than We Thought — an article on the Smart Living Network
March 18, 2009 at 4:38 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

We're Older than We Thought

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How would you define "old?" At what age do you expect people to begin showing true signs of age? In their late 40s or 50s? How about 27? A recent study out of Virginia University suggests that despite the general health and vigor of folks in their late 20s, 27 year olds are actually at the beginning of mental decline.

The findings were published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. The study was lead by Professor Timothy Salthouse, and looked at the cognitive functioning and performance of 2,000 people over a seven year period. The participants were in good health, male and female, and between the ages of 18 and 60. During the study, participants took tests to measure reasoning, speed of thought, and spatial visualization. The activities performed to test these areas were visual puzzles, word and story detail recall, and pattern recognition in letters and symbols. The results were determined by taking the averages of 12 tests. Nine of the 12 tests indicated that 22 is the age of peak mental performance. In analyzing the change of scores with later age, 27 appeared to be when they began to dip significantly from the peak at age 22.Who knew?

While most of us have accepted that there is some physical decline in the decade after high school graduation, we aren't expecting to notice any real change in our abilities of memory and critical thinking. If anything, we would expect the improvement that comes with experience. The benefit of this seemingly depressing news is that any knowledge about cognitive decline contributes to combating diseases like Alzheimer's. Knowing that substantial changes happen already in our 20s will help researchers find ways to slow the aging process.

"Understanding more about how healthy brains decline could help us understand what goes wrong in serious diseases like Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is not a natural part of getting old; it is a physical disease that kills brain cells, affecting tens of thousands of under 65s too," explained Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

If you're in your late 20s or early 30s, don't let this information scare you. If they weren't obvious before, the mental changes that might be happening to you now are probably not going to make a huge difference in your daily life. But never take your mind for granted, even when it's in the best of health.

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