Diet, Exercise and Old Brains
Diet, Exercise can help keep Brain Fit in Old Age. Dallas Morning News date April 21, 2015
Adults of a certain age seem to have trouble finding their keys, or remembering what it was they meant to buy at the store. It’s a normal part of aging, different from diseases like Alzheimer’s but still challenging.
A Committee of medial professionals took a look at this in “Cognitive Aging,” a report issued earlier for the Institute of Medicine, a brand of the National Academy of Sciences. The report notes that brain health benefits from some of the same habits of exercise and diet that keeps the rest of the body healthy. The fatty acids in a nice piece of salmon, for example, can hold off cognitive decline. Adequate sleep, lower stress, social ties and lifelong learning also help counteract cognitive decline.
An unhealthy diet, stress, loneliness, lack of exercise and poor sleep can make cognitive aging much worse. That effects a person’s independence and has a major financial impact on society at large because of the cost of both professional and family care giving. In 2009, there were 39 million Americans 65 o older. By 2030 that number will increase to 72 million.
Aging wears down more than the brain’s ability to remember. Attentiveness, problem-solving skills, understanding and decision making are all affected. The report stresses that this decline in mental acuity is not a disease. Alzheimer’s is not a disease. Alzheimer’s a widely feared brain illness, involves the loss of neuronal connections within the brain. Messages no longer get through. The disrupted nerve cells break down and die.
Cognitive aging, on the other hand is dynamic. Troubled reasoning one day can be followed by a clear headed grasp of events the next. The frequency of these sorts of issues is greater after age 65, however. Many people over 85 have more trouble with the judgment needed for driving, financial decisions and even overall health.
Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine, said on consequence of this financial abuse of the elderly-frauds that take in older people and rob them of $2.9billion a year. The good news is that there are things we can do to support other parts of the body as they age, and we can do that for the brain too. Dzan said, “And much of it is straightforward –exercise, get active, don’s smoke, get a lot of sleep.”
The committee reviewed more that 20 years of studies regarding cognitive aging. It found little evidence to support commercial claims that extra vitamins or nutritional supplement improve cognition. One remarkable idea supported by the research is the brain’s ability to build a “cognitive reserve” that can be used to ward of normal ageing and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Lifelong learning and reading seems to build this reserve. They “increase the flexibility, efficiency and capacity of brain networks.” the report notes. “Lower educational attainment,” on the other hand, “was associated with worse cognitive outcomes.”
It’s not all downhill. The report notes something that earlier societies accepted more readily experienced enhances knowledge. “Changes in mental functions and capabilities are a part of aging and occur with everyone,” said Dan G. Blaze an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. Wisdom and knowledge can increase with age, while memory and attention can decline.