Cognitive health typically refers to maintaining mental function in late life; the term is rarely used about children, adolescents, or young adults. Cognitive health depends on three factors. The first element is whether performance on cognitive tests is at or above that of one’s peers. These cognitive tests typically measure how fast adults can process information, how effectively they can learn and remember new information, their ability to ignore irrelevant information, and their capacity to hold information in mind.

A second component of cognitive health relates to the structural characteristics of one’s brain. Adults with low cognitive health often show evidence of significant brain shrinkage, small lesions in the brain’s white matter, and deposits of amyloid and tau proteins—the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

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