Midlife cognitive training could improve balance later in life | To research

Simple cognitive tests in midlife could predict the likelihood of falling later in life, one of the most common causes of injury and death, according to new research.

Low levels of word memory, verbal fluency, processing speed and cognitive ability in your 50s are early indicators of impaired balance later in life, a condition that increases the risk of falls, injuries and deaths, researchers at University College London have found.

The findings also open up the intriguing possibility that cognitive training in midlife may have a positive impact on balance as we age.

“Our research highlights that there is a strong cognitive component involved in successful balance,” said lead author Dr. Joanna Blodgett. “Current balance and fall risk interventions tend to focus on physical aspects, such as strength or balance training. However, it may now be useful to investigate whether interventions that improve cognition might also improve balance.

Previous research on balance ability has primarily focused on physical aspects such as underlying musculoskeletal strength or mobility. “Our research shows that, given the crucial neural integration of sensory input and motor response required to maintain balance, it is one of the measures of physical ability most closely related to ability. cognitive,” Blodgett said.

Falls are the most common cause of injury-related death in people over 75 and cost the NHS around £1billion a year. Hip fractures are the most common cause of accidental death in older people.

But despite their serious consequences, falls later in life are often dismissed as an inevitable part of aging. Blodgett said his findings, based on a study of 3,000 people from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, a UK birth cohort study, and published in the Journals of Gerontology, could enable targeted interventions in midlife that protect people later in life. .

Balance ability relies on cognitive processing of information in three directions, Blodgett said. First, from what we see; second, what our body feels through movement and position, and third, the stimulation identified by our inner ear and fed back to the brain.

“Simple cognitive tests could identify those at risk of imbalance, providing opportunities for both screening and interventions,” she said.

“Understanding these associations earlier in the midlife, either before or at the onset of decline, is particularly important for preventing or mitigating the loss of independent mobility.”

No previous studies have investigated age-related changes between specific cognitive processes and balance in midlife, Blodgett said, or considered the mutual adjustment of multiple cognitive measures. “As such, several of the results of our study are novel,” she said.

Blodgett’s research has been welcomed by Age UK policy officer Dr Lis Boulton, who said it should be introduced into the NHS health check for adults in England aged 40-74 . risk of imbalance later in life and then giving them targeted advice in the form of balance exercises,” she said.

Dawn Skelton, professor of aging and health at Glasgow Caledonian University, said the article was insightful. “Balance isn’t just about muscle strength in your legs or in your core,” she said. “It’s also about you, your mental capacity and your brain, and how the brain knows which muscles to turn on and off when and how fast, and what part you need to twist to keep yourself fit. . You have to have a lot going on in your brain to be able to deal with that.

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