Thursday, April 19, 2007

MORE FODDER FOR THE AGING BRAIN






Here's some more fodder for keeping your brain flexible. What they seem to be saying is simple. Like any other organ, to keep your brain healthy, eat right and exercise. Noted researcher Dr. Lawrence Whalley sums it up in his book "The Aging Brain:" "those who maintain mental ability best are those who smoke or drink least (if at all), eat a balanced diet with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, and keep physically active."
Diet:
Middle-aged tea men who are heavy tea drinkers had a 68% reduction in death risk from heart attacks and 73% reduced risk of stroke. In another study of over 3,400 men and women, even drinking one or two cups of tea per day reduced risk of vascular disease by 46% (reported in "Saving Your Brain," by Dr. Jeff Victoroff). However, this may not translate to improved brain health.
Loma Linda University researchers tracked 99 people from 1976 to 1991. Those who consumed more calories at the start had lower mental performance scores fifteen years later (reported in Victoroff).
Brain Training:
2/3 of participants in a cognitive training program showed significant improvement, with 40% of those were returned to their pre-decline level of cognitive functioning. These gains were retained over seven years. A religious orders study found a 47% reduction in Alzheimer's risk for those who frequently did significant information processing such as reading news or solving puzzles.

EXERCISE:
Those who walk rapidly for as little as 45 minutes three times a week significantly improve age-related declines in cognitive abilities. People who participated in a three month exercise regimen grew new neurons; those whose cardiovascular fitness improved the most also saw the greatest increase in brain cells. A study of 222 Swedish twins found that, generally, the fitter member of a twin pair also had higher cognitive scores.
Youthful Mental Ability:
Whalley found that people with lower childhood IQ scores were more at risk for late-onset Alzheimer's (although the cause could really be overall health in childhood).
Dr. David Snowdon of the University of Kentucky tested a group of 70+ year old nuns, and looked at their diaries from fifty years earlier. The nuns whose youthful writings showed sophisticated thought and grammar were much less prone to severe memory loss and Alzheimer's disease late in life. -- "The Memory Bible," by Dr. Gary Small
Supplements:
Many studies support use of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. One found that as little as two years of use reduced Alzheimer's risk by 35%; longer use reduced the risk as much as 60%. The Economist (July 29, 2006) reports that long term use of aspirin and ibuprofen roughly halves a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's (but this early study found no aspirin benefit). However, there are indications that too much aspirin may increase the risk of brain hemorrhages, so there may be a "just right" amount that best balances risk and reward.