Laurie's Blogs.


Mar 2023

Causes of Cognitive Decline

Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt, CAFCI, CCRT, Cert. Sm. Anim. Acup / Dry Needling


I found an interesting article.  It was about people and cognitive decline, or more specifically, what CAUSES cognitive decline.  So, I thought, I’d put the information here, 1) because it might help YOU, and 2) because I’m sure there is much to learn as it could related to dogs.


So, here we go! 


The information in the article above comes from research conducted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan.  The research was based on data from over 7,000 participants who were part of a larger longitudinal study that ran from 1996 to 2016.


The researchers noted that cognitive dementia accounts for only 41% of cognitive decline.  They wanted to figure out what where the important causal factors for non-dementia-related cognitive decline.



The researchers found that household wealth and income, levels of depression, education, occupation, and race all played a role in predicting cognitive outcomes.  Those with a good early education and who stayed in school the longest had the best cognitive health.  They tended to also have better incomes and higher socioeconomic status.


On further dissection of the data, the scientists further found that the number of years of education was not significantly associated with cognitive functioning but that participants with a college degree had slower cognitive decline than those who had not graduated from college.



Being married seemed to have a preservation impact on cognition, and being widowed after age 54 appeared to cause steep cognitive declines.


Funny (to me) was that this study found that having more children led to lower cognitive functioning in midlife but did not appear to accelerate cognitive decline afterward.



Those with markedly unhealthy lifestyle practices – being morbidly obese or smoking – had lower cognitive function and a steeper decline.


Having a chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, and psychiatric problems, was also correlated with lower cognitive functioning.


Vigorous exercise was helpful and improved cognition, however it did not change the downward trend.

“Socioeconomic factors—in particular, the quality and quantity of one’s early education—exerts an influence on future cognitive health through the contribution to cognitive reserve.” Engaging in cognitively complex activities contributed to our ‘brain bank’ by building layers and layers of neural networks that can better withstand future neurodegeneration.



  1. Eat from the rainbow – choosing a variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
  2. Sleep matters – honour the circadian rhythm.    
  3. Some botanicals / supplements might help (but I’m not getting into these, as I am personally unaware of what is and isn’t appropriate for dogs).
  4. Stay in the game of life – keep learning new things!


What might this mean for our canine patients or canine companions?


  • Teach them things!  Take them to class!  Give them novel experiences.
  • Interact with them and let them interact with others.
  • Keep them healthy.  Exercise regularly. 
  • Perhaps adding an assortment of fruits and vegetables to their diet could be of benefit.
  • Provide them with a calm dark area to sleep at night, and get them out in the daylight when possible.
  • When they become too old or frail to do high energy sports or activities, introduce them to brain games, sniffing games, or new outings and adventures.


Who knows, it might benefit you and the dogs both!