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KEEPING A SHARP BRAIN

Brain Based aging

While many people worry about aging and getting wrinkles, some others worry about neurodegenerative diseases like alzheimers. The first type of people, spend lots of money on treatments, creams, and cirgury procedures to fight the aging process. The second type, are mostly involved in a vicious circle of “worriness” that lead to more deterioration of the brain.

But what is the best antidote against aging? Is it possible to prevent the natural process of aging?

When we were little we all wanted to “Grow up”. So first things first, we should understand that we should be always happy to grow, since it is a sign that we are alive. When we view the positive half of any situation we have better probability of handling it in the right optimistic way, towards a proactive outcome.

Neuroscientist are making great progress in understanding how the brain works. A Research held by Holly M. Williams at the North Georgia University (April/2/2015) compared the difference between using software programs and alternative more traditional activities to improve cognitive fuctioning. While there isn´t enough evidence  that   the software use isn´t making any good, there is enough evidence that simple activities like moderate physical activity, puzzles, eating healthy, social engagement, meditating and language training are good to keep the brain connected.

Improvement in brain function associated with moderate physical activity has been noticed in both growing children and older adults. In addition, the cognitive benefits of physical exercise  last for decades. A study published in 2009 has shown that exercise directly improves the flow of blood in the brain and enhances the functionality of various neurotransmitters involved in cognitive processes. This study also points to the mood-enhancing effects of physical exercise that may indirectly exert a positive effect on cognitive functioning.

According to other researchers endurance exercise triggers the production of a muscle protein called FNDC5 in the body. This protein is released into the bloodstream as a molecule called irisin. The presence of this molecule stimulates the genes responsible for learning and memory. Scientists are still studying this, but they believe that exercise triggers the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF regulates inflammation, improves the transmission of signals within cells, and regulates the functions of the synapses. BDNF is also believed to exert neuroprotective benefits that stall cell death.

Does this mean we should throw away all the brain games? Although there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life, it is fine to play such games for fun.  If you’re doing it like a chore, to postpone cognitive aging and dementia there are other, better established methods of keeping the brain sharp, such as exercising. Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and others, say that Cognitive improvements from exercise appear to be modest, but are still greater than any of the small, fleeting gains yet observed in studies of gaming.

Dr. Daniel Amen said: “No matter what your age, being a physical slug is bad for your brain, even if you are spending all of your time doing New York Times crossword puzzles” (Magnificent minda at any age, pg 28).

In a study in which researchers used an MRI machine to measure the amount of brain tissue in adults 55 years of age and older, they found results, consistent with other studies of aging and brain volume. What they found was  that there were substantial declines in brain tissue density as a function of age in areas of the brain responsible for thinking and memory.  But the losses in these areas were substantially reduced in the fittest individuals. The fittest elders had the highest scores on tasks like coordination, scheduling, planning, and memory. It was also found that excercise had mood elevating effect in the adults.

Having friends and enjoying activities with others also appears to be beneficial. Numerous studies have shown that the level of social engagement, such as the size of a person’s social network or frequency of contacts, promotes cognitive health or reduces risk of dementia. Having a purpose in life has been shown to be associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Together these factors help explain the variability we see in how well cognitive function is retained with advanced age.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association  published guidelines for physical activity in older adults.

  • To promote and maintain health, older adults need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes five days each week.
  • To promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days each week..
  • older adults should perform activities that maintain or increase flexibility at least two days each week for at least 10 minutes each day.

 

While we may not stop the aging process, we can still be optimistic about the good quality of life that we can have as we age. Not relying on one method as beeing the “one and only” antidote for aging in this case is probably the best advice. Spending some time on computer games is not bad in itself as sacrifying valuable time from social encounters and physicial activity. The findings from the above-mentioned studies definitely prove the case for being physically  and socially active. So let´s get up and start moving and rescheduling our elderly´s routine.

Sources:

Amen, Daniel Dr. “Magnificent Mind at any Age”, 2008.

BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL HEALTH
Can Physical Exercise Improve Cognitive Abilities? by Viatcheslav Wlassoff, PhD | February 4, 2015

Kashihara, K., Maruyama, T., Murota, M., & Nakahara, Y. (2009). Positive Effects of Acute and Moderate Physical Exercise on Cognitive Function Journal of PHYSIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, 28 (4), 155-164 DOI: 10.2114/jpa2.28.155
http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2015/Cognitive_Skills_and_the_Aging_Brain__What_to_Expect/#sthash.FOervE6e.dpuf

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Family Counselor. Educational Consultant with 30 years of experience in Education, Counseling, Theatre, Workshop Facilitator in various topics and audiences

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