Habits for a Healthier Brain

As we age, it is human nature to wonder whether or not there is anything we can do to slow down the aging process. Many baby boomers are applying this question to enhance not only their physical appearance, but their cognitive function and brain health as well.

We’ve all experienced moments of forgetfulness. Misplacing an important item, forgetting a name or getting our calendar date mixed up can lead us to wonder: is this part of getting old? Countless jokes are made at the expense of the old timer’s slow cognitive function and ability to remember yesterday. Are we doomed to live out the harsh truth at the center of these jokes or is there something that can be done about the aging brain?

In a recent study carried out by Neurology Magazine, a group of researchers in China randomly selected 9 communities. Out of these communities 5,000 people that were over 55 years or older were interviewed concerning age, sex, occupation, medical conditions, medications, smoking, drinking, education and leisure activities. The group was tracked for 5 years and given the same tests each year. In the final analysis 11% had a drop in their cognitive abilities. Those 11% were far more likely to be women, have lower education, smoke and drink daily and have a medical condition. The study also demonstrated that playing board games and reading was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline while watching television was associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.

This is in keeping with a recent AARP Bulletin, which expounds on a recent study carried out by some of the leading neuroscientists and brain health experts in the country. It states that in addition to the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and Cognitive aging are separate ailments, there are many things you can do to slow down cognitive aging such as:

  • Exercise: Aerobic exercise provides your brain with much needed oxygen and helps slow the aging process.
  • Intellectual and social activity: Such as reading, writing and social activity are all linked with preserving brain function
  • Eating Healthy: Consuming less meat and alcohol and increasing your intake of vegetables, Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish), and nuts and beans can help protect an aging brain.
  • Getting Enough Rest: Poor sleep is linked to memory problems, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Avoid
  • Alcohol, Chemicals and Drugs: Some medications have been linked with cognitive decline including benzodiazepines and anticholinergic drugs. It is important to point out that alcohol was associated with cognitive decline in both studies and should be kept to a minimum or avoided totally if possible. Overlooked sources of chemicals include fast food, overexposure to traffic and processed foods.

Key points to take away from these studies include: keeping our toxic load to a minimum as we age, eating healthy and partaking in physical and mental exercise on a daily basis.

Author: Joan Evans

Joan Evans is a mental health specialist and has a great interest in personality disorders. In her spare time she likes to go to the woods with her golden retriever, Leroy, and write fiction.

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