Brain Health:
Human Mental Decline Typically Begins Before Age 40

Exercise Regularly & Get Enough Sleep

The latest research calls exercise the single most important tool people have to optimize brain function. It has been found that exercise can delay cognitive decline by seven to ten years.

  • Exercise stimulates the production of proteins called growth factors, which promote the formation and growth of brain cells and synapses.
  • One study showed that aerobic exercisers actually increased their brain size by three percent.
  • Another study found that when people exercised regularly for three months, blood flow increased to a part of the hippocampus, which is important in memory.
  • It has been observed that since the invention of the light bulb, man has become sleep-deprived.
  • During deep sleep, the brain repairs itself and boosts the immune system. Sleep loss leads to fatigue, immune suppression, along with memory, concentration, and mood disorders.

Manage Stress & Think Positively

Over 90 percent of Americans report high levels of stress at least several times a week. And stress has been identified as the single biggest contributor to depression. Depression affects memory and slows brain metabolism.

  • Researchers have reported that the activation of brain regions associated with negative emotions appear to weaken the immune response to a flu vaccine.
  • Also found was that those who showed the most activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex – an area known to be centrally involved in emotion – had the lowest antibodies.

Maintain a Healthy Weight & Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

A body mass index of 30 or more is associated with double the risk of dementia. With those who also have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, the risk is six times higher.

  • Your brain needs a well-balanced, low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet. Omega-3 fatty acids work in part by counteracting free radicals that cause oxidative damage to brain cells. Some research suggests they may help improve the efficacy of nerve signal transmission at synapses.
  • Nicotine, alcohol, and illegal drugs stress the brain. These substances decrease the blood flow in the brain, which can cause premature aging.

Socialize & Take on New Challenges

A large study found that people who engaged in leisure activities such as learning to play a musical instrument or dancing were less likely to develop dementia. The brain requires changes such as new skills, hobbies, and activities that cause it to remodel itself.

Many experts believe that social isolation may create a chronically stressful condition that accelerates aging. Harvard researchers found that those with at least five social ties were less likely to suffer cognitive decline. Social engagement appears to boost people's sense of control, which affects their stress level.

Sources

L.A. Times; CBS; AARP; Brain Foundation; Time; NIH; New York Times; Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance by Daniel Amen, M.D.; U.S. News & World Report; USA Today, Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, M.D.; 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People by Walt Larimore, M.D.; and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Fact Sheet of the Month is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.