Could a Job Help Prevent Cognitive Decline?

The work you put in now might provide more than just a paycheck...

Cognitive decline is essentially the deterioration of cognitive functions, including reaction time, memory, and decision-making.

Age is one of the most significant risk factors of cognitive decline, with some individuals starting to experience related symptoms as early as age 45, though the rate at which cognition declines is variable.

But if wondering, “Is cognitive decline inevitable with aging?” the short answer is no. In fact, research shows there are various beneficial factors that can help improve cognition later on in life, including the job you work now.

Working Nine to Five Mind

In a 2014 study published in Neurology, researchers sought out to examine the association between varying occupations and cognitive performance in later life.

Including over 1,000 individuals, researchers compared IQ scores obtained around age 11 and their general cognitive ability, processing speed, and memory almost 60 years later at age 70.

Researchers evaluated occupational complexity ratings using the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, including complexity of work with people or data (including a lawyer, social worker, surgeon, musician, and architect), with less complex occupations with people or data (such as a factory worker, painter, telephone operator, and food server).

Generally, the more complex the job, the better ranking of cognitive measures. Furthermore, the researchers noted people with higher IQ scores tend to gravitate toward more complex occupations, which makes it difficult to differentiate whether or not high innate intelligence or job stimulation is a stronger factor in better brain aging.

Nonetheless, this body is research contributes to the growing evidence supportive of a stimulating mental environment and healthy, aging brain.

But likewise as important, not only should the working environment be stimulating, but low in stress. And while pressure can help drive and excel job performance and outcomes, too much workplace stress is known to be related with many behavioral and disease outcomes. In fact, job strain may influence decline in cognitive performance according to research published in The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Additional Factors

Along with mind-stimulating activities, such as working a complex job or even meditating, the risk of cognitive decline may be delayed or reduced by:

  • Consuming a nutrient-dense diet filled with “brain foods,” including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, beans, and fish, especially varieties rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout. Tea and coffee may support also brain function, mostly by protecting the brain against oxidative damage and stress.
  • Participating in physical activity at least 150 minutes per week, as being active helps stimulate blood flow to the brain and lessens the risk of cognitive decline.
  • Managing health conditions can lessen the risk of cognitive decline, including controlling blood pressures, lipids, and sugars, along with losing and/or maintaining weight.
  • Sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours on a nightly basis, which is needed to preserve memories and clear beta-amyloid, a protein fragment shown to build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Smoking cessation, particularly as smoking has shown to speed up the aging process of the entire body.
  • Keeping busy has shown to keep the brain young, as living a busy on a daily basis has been associated to an improved episodic memory, or the ability to remember specific events in the past.