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Older women have less cognition loss—and less quickly—than men

April 11, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Women may be better able to keep their wits about them as they age.

Researchers found cognitive function decreased with age—and the kind and rate of mental decline depended on sex.

"Our results highlight greater resilience to age-related cognitive decline in older women compared with men," researchers write in Psychology and Aging.

Researchers analyzed data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. They found older women outscored older men on most cognitive tests, including the ability to converse naturally or fluently, coordinate body movements with mental activity, termed psychomotor speed and word learning and memory.

Men initially outperformed women on spatial assessments, a skill that is traditionally stronger in men. Over time, men saw a decline in spatial skills, mental status, visual memory and psychomotor speed.

Women didn’t experience the same extend and rate of cognitive decline. Researchers say their findings are supported by other studies that suggest age-related brain changes occur more slowly in women.

As part of the study, more than 2,000 participants age 50 to 96 completed two to four cognitive assessments a year for up to nine years that measured brain functions such as memory, attention, mental flexibility and verbal abilities. Participants did not show signs of cognitive impairment at any point during the study.

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