“Cognitive health is [your] ability to think clearly, learn, and remember,” explains Julie Rowin, M.D., FAAN, DABMA, integrative neurologist at Verde Valley Naturopathic Medicine.
This includes a range of critical brain functions, such as attention, reasoning, reaction time, and memory. It also includes your ability to process information, navigate relationships, and develop plans and conclusions, adds Rowin.
However, as with all parts of the body, the brain (and therefore, cognitive well-being) naturally changes as you age. For starters, neurons (nerve cells) shrink over time, which reduces gray matter in the brain.
Gray matter is the tissue involved in daily cognitive functioning. Neurogenesis, or the production of new nerve cells, also slows down later in life, which can ultimately impact optimal cognition.
These changes are a normal part of getting older, meaning everyone experiences them to some degree as they age. “Some older individuals may find that they’re not as fast as younger adults on tasks that require learning and memory,” Rowin explains.
Other cognitive functions such as attention and decision-making might also shift with age.