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Staying Sharp – Successful Aging and the Brain

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    • #71986
      Iliana Aljure

      The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (, partnering with AARP and MetLife Foundation, is giving for free a simple to read booklet called “Staying Sharp: Ask the Experts – Successful Aging and the Brain”, which I find a MUST READ for all people who are concerned on how to age wisely and sharply, understanding there are natural and normal things happening to the brain as well as the rest of the body, as we age. Instead of worrying about forgetting things, especially those that fall into the category of “declarative type of memory”, the booklet gives information on how to recognize symptoms and move into strategies such as relaxing, slowing down to pay attention and stay focused, repeating, writing, visualizing, making associations, staying organized, planning and prioritizing. In their last page, there is a checklist for a brain-healthy lifestyle, addressing the do’s and the don’ts, which I found a breath of fresh air and optimism for the future.

      Highly recommended reading!

    • #72411

      Right Liana, maintaining good Brain and Body functions as we age is so important for the well-being of everyone. Your recommended link – The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives ( contains rich and resourceful Brain-Health materials for people of all ages.

      I am very grateful for your sharing. Wishing you a Great Year Ahead in 2017.

    • #72731
      Iliana Aljure

      I am glad it helped Dr.Chen! Let me add some tips that they put together at the end of their booklet, which I find very helpful:
      1. Experts say that only about 30% of physical aging can be traced to our genes. The rest is up to us! There is a lot we can do to take charge of our brain health and mantain our cognitive fitness, no matter how old we are!
      2. Engaging in physical activity has wonderful benefits, regardless of current fitness levels. Exercise is strongly associated with succesful brain aging. It increases levels of brain chemicals that encourage the growth of neurons, which may be why aerobic activity seems to sharpen memory and enhance learning. Strength training improves cognition too. It also reduces the risk of Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease, improves mood and counteracts depression, boosts, BDNF and increases the number of glia cells and neurons.
      3. Mental exercising is as important as physical exercising, so engage in life-long learning! Take courses, go back to college, learn new things everyday, do puzzles and cognitive games, learn a new language, read books, learn a hobby, engage in a history club or whatever challenges your brain!
      4. Make social connections! Stay active with family and friends because this enhances memory. It prevents isolation and depression. Humans are social creatures and ours are “social brains”. Be part of a community that you like which offers programs and services according to your age, be a volunteer for helping others, buy a pet and/or join organizations and clubs. This will always give a sense of love and belonging to the society you live in.
      5. Manage stress levels! Social interactions and exercising are among the suggested solutions for reducing stress. Yoga and meditation are helpful tools too.
      6. Reduce vascular and diabetes risks! Have a well rounded diet, take supplements and see your doctor regularly. Drink plenty of water, avoid trans fatty acids, sugars and processed foods. Check out Dr. David Perlmutter’s book called “Grain Brain”. Here’s a link for a video:
      7. SLEEP WELL!

      I hope this is useful!

    • #73741

      Thank you for a great post, Iliana!. I am currently creating the content for a 5 week introductory course for middle school students to learn about their brains. It’s amazing how similar the concepts are! Certainly there are unique characteristics between the adolescent brain and the senescent brain, but so many of the strategies to maintain a healthy brain are the same. For example, when I talk with kids about their brains, we talk about things like diet, exercise, sleep, and the power of positive social connections. I also show them images of human brains (most of them come from Dr. Daniel Amen’s SPECT collection) and show them the differences between healthy and unhealthy brains.

      When I work with kids, we also spend a bit of time helping them understand the nature of learning and memory…since so much of their lives are dominated by school (and the importance of remembering stuff). The topic of memory (and how to improve it) is also very relevant for those who are aging. My mother just turned 60 this year and thankfully she is in great health and cognitively as sharp as ever. But I know that one of her concerns over the coming years is a decline in cognition and mental capacity. It is a huge fear for our older friends and relatives and your list offers great suggestions about how to take care of their brains.

      I often tell people about the Mankato Nun Study done years ago (I’ve included a link below). If you’ve not heard of this before, it’s worth looking into.

    • #82129
      Iliana Aljure

      Bryan, I just read about the nun study in the book The Brain: The Story of You. I enjoyed reading the article you suggested following the link you gave us. I guess cognitive decline is something we are all afraid of… I have been interested in the topic for sometime now because my father who just turned 90, has had a visible decline in the past two years. He had a sharp memory and is very hard to see him stumble asking the same questions over and over in a short period of time. He remembers everything from the past but his short term memory is affected right now. Te more we know how to prevent this memory loss, the better we can achieve it. It is an interesting and relevant topic to study definately! Thanks a lot!

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