Cognitive vitality is essential to quality of life and survival in old age. With normal aging, cognitive changes such as slowed speed of processing are common, but there is substantial interindividual variability, and cognitive decline is clearly not inevitable. In this review, we focus on recent research investigating the association of various lifestyle factors and medical comorbidities with cognitive aging. Most of these factors are potentially modifiable or manageable, and some are protective. For example, animal and human studies suggest that lifelong learning, mental and physical exercise, continuing social engagement, stress reduction, and proper nutrition may be important factors in promoting cognitive vitality in aging. Manageable medical comorbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, also contribute to cognitive decline in older persons. Other comorbidities such as smoking and excess alcohol intake may contribute to cognitive decline, and avoiding these activities may promote cognitive vitality in aging. Various therapeutics, including cognitive enhancers and protective agents such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, may eventually prove useful as adjuncts for the prevention and treatment of cognitive decline with aging. The data presented in this review should interest physicians who provide preventive care management to middle-aged and older individuals who seek to maintain cognitive vitality with aging.
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