Stay Mentally Active To Build Your Cognitive Reserve
Psychologists and gerontologists refer to a concept known as cognitive reserve which is essentially your brains ability to adapt in the face of ageing or illness.
For instance, if a person has high cognitive reserve, then even if they show some of the biological markers of Alzheimers , its possible they will still perform well on tests of their mental performance. Its as if they have spare mental capacity that allows them to cope with the damage.
Importantly, there are many activities you can adopt that are considered to build your cognitive reserve, such as reading, playing musical instruments or singing, completing challenging puzzles, learning a second language and travelling. Put simply, there really is truth to the old adage to use it or lose it.
Read more about brain health:
How To Keep Your Brain Healthy And Young
May 20, 20204 min read
The brain is the control center of the nervous system. Every sensation, emotion and movement, both voluntary and involuntary, involves the brain. Though it is only two percent of the body by weight, the brain uses 15 to 20 percent of cardiac output so that it has enough oxygen to function properly. Brain health, therefore, is closely related to the supply of blood to the brain.
To maintain a healthy brain with optimal cognitive functioning, it is important to follow the Protect, Prevent and Increase strategy: Protect the brain from external and internal risk factors,Prevent infection and Increase brain connections.
Simple Steps To Keep Your Mind Sharp At Any Age
Everyone has the occasional “senior moment.” Maybe you’ve gone into the kitchen and can’t remember why, or can’t recall a familiar name during a conversation. Memory lapses can occur at any age, but aging alone is generally not a cause of cognitive decline. When significant memory loss occurs among older people, it is generally not due to aging but to organic disorders, brain injury, or neurological illness.
Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits:
- staying physically active
- limiting alcohol to no more than one drink a day
- eating a Mediterranean style diet.
Memory and other cognitive changes can be frustrating, but the good news is that, thanks to decades of research, you can learn how to get your mind active. There are various strategies we can use to help maintain cognitive fitness. Here are several you might try.
1. Keep learning
A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age. Experts think that advanced education may help keep memory strong by getting a person into the habit of being mentally active. Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active. Pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, volunteering or mentoring are additional ways to keep your mind sharp.
2. Use all your senses
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How To Keep Your Brain Healthy At Any Age
Todays episode is a little bit different to usual, its a special compilation episode, all about how to look after our brains. The brain is our most vital and complex organ and it controls and coordinates all of our actions, thoughts and interactions with the world around us. Its the source of our personality, our sense of self, and it shapes every aspect of our human experience. Yet most of us dont actually know or think that much about how our brains really work, and what we can do to improve its performance. So, this special episode aims to bring you some of the highlights from previous episodes of my podcast, all themed around the brain. Youre going to hear about growing new nerve cells, how learning a new language can impact your brain, the powerful effects of music, as well as the importance of movement and human touch and so much more. My hope is that by the end of this podcast, you will have learned some new fascinating information about the brain, as well as some practical brain boosting strategies that you can adopt immediately. I really hope you enjoy listening.
Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.*
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Get A Good Nights Sleep
Sleep helps our brains clear away toxins, plaques and proteins that build up throughout the day.
It helps us to remember new things we have learnt, improves concentration, mood and metabolism.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation, or sleep interruption, can increase stress levels.
Its essential to get between 6-8 hours sleep each day for our brains to optimise brain performance.
Nourish Your Brain With A Healthy Diet
Like any high-performance machine, the brain needs top quality fuel.
- Your brain needs a well-balanced, low cholesterol, low saturated diet.
- Protein and unsaturated fat is especially important for developing brains. Fish, a rich source of both, is sometimes called brain food.
- Your body converts long strings of amino acids in the protein you eat to individual amino acids that your brain converts to the specific proteins it needs.
- Your brain needs vitamins and minerals they come from your diet.
- Research suggests anti-oxidant vitamins E and C protect the brain.
- Avoid excess food. Reducing calories can help slow age-related brain changes
- Enjoy caffeine and alcohol in moderation.
- As a general rule, good nutrition for the body is good nutrition for the brain.
What energy source is essential for the brain?
- Your liver, pancreas and kidneys work together to maintain the right level of glucose in your blood
- Your blood supplies glucose to your brain at a steady rate
- The glucose provides the energy to enable brain proteins to build cells, produce chemicals for nerves to communicate and to repair damage
Vascular Risks Increase Brain Health Risks
The researchers were able to use the brain scans to quantify exactly how much brain matter is lost when these vascular risk factors are present.
People with the highest vascular risk had around 18 milliliters , or nearly 3 percent, less volume of gray matter compared to people without the risk factors.
Grey matter is brain tissue on the surface of the brain that houses most of the neurons. Neurons send messages through your brain to your body. When theyre impaired, your reactions and processing slow down.
Additionally, these scans showed that individuals with vascular risk had one-and-a-half times the damage to their white matter compared to people without the risks.
White matter is deeper in the brain than gray matter. It naturally declines with age, but previous research has shown that white matter loss is linked to slower thought processing and reduced executive functioning. Vascular risk factors may speed up this loss.
The study also found that damage to the brains wasnt even across the whole of the brain. Indeed, specific areas were more likely to be affected by the atrophy, and these areas have significant impacts on cognitive health.
Any perceived protective benefits of younger age are wiped out when these vascular risk factors are present, the researchers also discovered.
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Ways To Keep Your Brain Healthy
Smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure can take a toll on your brain. Here are things that can help.
The condition of your blood vessels may determine a lot about the health of your brain, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that a variety of factors including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes all conditions that affect your blood vessels or vascular risk factors may also hurt your brain.
Over time, these factors may lead to brain deterioration and increase the risk of developing Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia.
This new study published March 11 looked at the MRI scans of brains from 9,772 people between the ages of 44 and 79.
Specifically, the researchers, who were led by Simon Cox, PhD, a senior research associate at the University of Edinburghs Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, examined connections between seven vascular risk factors smoking, hypertension, pulse pressure, diabetes, , body mass index , and waist-hip ratio and structures of the brain responsible for complex thinking. These areas are known to deteriorate as dementia develops.
To determine the impact of these vascular risk factors on brains, the researchers compared brain scans from people of similar head size, age, and sex.
Indeed, all risk factors except high cholesterol were associated with some degree of brain health decline.
Limit Stress And Get The Sleep You Need
When were under stress, we make a hormone called cortisol, which has a stronger effect on older brains. This challenges an older persons ability to recover from emotional upset. Knowing this, its best for older people to take change slowly and learn ways to cope with anxiety or tension.
Alcohol is not recommended to help you relax because long-term overuse clearly leads to cognitive impairment. Drink moderately , if at all.
Rest is important for managing stress. Research shows that inadequate sleep is linked to slower thinking and more risk for dementia. Individual needs vary greatly but most guidelines recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Frequent trouble sleeping does not mean you need to take sleeping pills for insomnia. Such drugs can actually worsen cognitive problems. Instead, try these ways to sleep better.
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Fuel Yourself Right For Better Focus
To protect your brain, you need to control your blood sugar. Sugar in excess can be toxic, causing neurons to die and possibly triggering cognitive decline. Dr. Gupta experienced this firsthand when he cut added sugar from his diet for a 60 Minutes story and saw his cognitive day increase.
He advises using the Global Council on Brain Healths framework to prioritize what to eat. Heres whats on the A-list, and the B- and C-lists, too:
A-list foods: Consume these regularly
- Fresh vegetables, especially leafy greens
- Whole berries
- Red-meat products, such as bacon, salami, hot dogs
- Red meat, such as beef, lamb, pork
- Whole-fat dairy high in saturated fat, such as cheese and butter
How To Boost Brain Power At Any Age
A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. Whether youre a student studying for final exams, a working professional interested in doing all you can to stay mentally sharp, or a senior looking to preserve and enhance your grey matter as you age, theres lots you can do to improve your memory and mental performance
They say that you cant teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isnt true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and changeeven into old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways.
The brains incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of neuroplasticity to increase your cognitive abilities, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory at any age. These nine tips can show you how.
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Think Of Inactivity As A Disease
Every time Im about to sit, I ask myself: Do I need to sit right now? Dr. Gupta says. That may go further in terms of the benefit of movement on your brain than even going to the gym. I dont have a chair in my office. If you can stand or walk during meetings, phone calls, and other activities, do it. Think of inactivity as the disease rather than working out as the cure, he says.
Four Ways To Keep Your Brain Healthy And Active As You Age
Boost brain health with exercise, memory games, social time and the best foods for your mind.
Good brain health is top-of-mind for many aging adults. Memory loss is affecting more people as the population ages and people live longer. I saw it in my Grandma Lorraine, who spent many years as a nurse and a strong, independent woman who loved to cook. In her later years, she lived in a memory care facility.
More than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimers disease, according to the Alzheimers Association. The World Health Organization expects this number to triple over the next three decades. But today we know there are ways to keep your memory sharp from brain-boosting foods to exercise and brain games.
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What Are Symptoms Of Alzheimers
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. Early onset Alzheimers can start between ages 30 to 60. Late onset Alzheimers affects people age 60 and older.
The Alzheimers Association identified early signs and symptoms of the disease. Some examples are:
- Asking for the same information over and over
- Trouble doing everyday things like balancing a checkbook
- Not understanding how to play a game
- Confusion about where you are or what day it is
- Trouble speaking or writing
- Putting things in a place they would not normally go
- Avoiding friends or family
- Mood or personality changes like irritability, depression or anxiety
Final Thoughts On Ways To Have A Young Brain
The above ideas and tips might seem like small things, but they can make all the difference. They can affect your brain and your life in a positive way. Believe that you deserve to live a healthy and happy life, both now and in the future. Take the steps you need to create that life for yourself and you will find yourself with a young brain and a youthful attitude toward life.
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How Is Keeping Your Brain Young Even Possible
Your brain every brain is a work in progress. It is plastic. From the day were born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it. Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of neuroplasticity
First, let us point out the obvious: if you dont challenge your brain throughout life, it will eventually slow due to aging. Lets briefly go over what happens to the structure and function of the brain as you progress through life.
- In ones late 20s, the brain begins to lose neurons due to
- The cerebrum, the outermost area of the brain, begins to thin, resulting in a reduction of synapses.
- At about 60, the frontal lobe and hippocampus regions of the brain begin to shrink. At 75, you will have lost approximately one-tenth of the neurons you had when born.
- Theoretically, fewer brain connections and synapses result in slower cognitive processing.
Now, even with these changes, it is possible to keep your brain young provided that enough time is devoted to cognitive exercise There are numerous people of advanced age who have retained most if not all of their cognitive abilities.
Its all about how you choose to use your brain.
Healthpartners Medicare Plan Members:
You have many great options to see a neurologist who specializes in memory loss. .
Approved treatments for Alzheimers disease focus on increasing the memory chemicals in the brain. None of these treatments stop or reverse the disease.
Scientists are working hard to develop and test new treatments. HealthPartners researchers are a part of this work. At our Center for Memory & Aging, were making treatment discoveries, learning about risk factors and identifying prevention options.
Connect with experts
Want to hear from a Medicare pro? Attend an in-person meeting, watch a recorded presentation, or schedule a one-on-one phone call.
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A Scripps Neurologist Explains How To Keep Your Brain Young Even As Your Body Ages
As we get older, its common to experience some cognitive decline like forgetting peoples names, losing track of time and other instances that we often chalk up to senior moments.
However, Mindy Bixby, DO, a neurologist at Scripps Clinic, says making a few lifestyle changes can help keep your brain healthy well into old age and may prevent or slow the onset of neurological disorders like Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease and dementia.
I want to prevent people from needing to come see me, says Dr. Bixby. Thats my goal.
Modest changes can improve memory, mood and mental acuity
To stay sharp in your senior years, follow the six pillars of brain health outlined below. Incorporating these tips can improve neurotransmitter health and produce dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine which, in turn, can lead to a longer, healthier life.
1.Eat brain-healthy foods
The U.S. has one of the highest rates of autoimmune disease in the world, and its believed that regular consumption of processed food is a factor. But a diet based around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and quality proteins can be beneficial to brain health.
Nutrition is extremely important to brain heath, Dr. Bixby explains. Picture what you choose to put in your mouth becoming part of you, and be thoughtful about what youre doing to your body.
2. Rest your brain
3. Manage your overall health
4. Play brain games
5. Stay active
6. Reduce or manage stress