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Women's Health: Decline Of Cognitive Functions Start In The 50's

Update Date: Jan 23, 2017 07:48 PM EST

Age is just a number. That is one of the popular pronouncements people make when they shy away from revealing their age. But in the latest news in women's health, a study was able to determine when mental health begins being affected by age. Researchers have found that the decline of cognitive functions starts in women on their 50's.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, is a longitudinal study on midlife women on their cognitive functions. Unlike previous studies, anticipate for what is called as "practice effects" and was able to detect cognitive decline in two domains: processing speed and verbal memory.

The researchers analyzed and collected data from more than 2,000 women enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nations or SWAN. The majority of the women in the study were postmenopausal with a median age of 54 years old. The study monitored the women for ten years with follow-ups conducted every two to three years.

The study, which started in 1996, had women answer the same tests during their follow-ups to reduce what is called the practice effect. Symbol digit modalities test was used to assess for processing speed and the East Boston Memory test was used to assess verbal episodic memory. Working memory was evaluated through the use of the digit span backward test.

Researchers found that working memory or the mental processing of women declined on an average of five percent over the ten-year long study. Processing speed declined on average by one percent every two years.Lastly, verbal memory also declined on average one percent every five years. More details regarding the study can be read in the journal, PLOS ONE.

The findings of the study are applicable to all women but researchers emphasize that decline in cognitive functions does not necessarily mean the loss of control mental-wise. Practices and interventions can slow the decline in cognitive functions in women in their 50's.

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