3 ways to help keep your aging brain agile

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Is there any way to prevent—or at least slow down—the kind of cognitive decline and dementia often associated with aging? According to a committee of experts, there may be three steps you can take to stay mentally sharp as you age. The evidence behind all three isn’t very strong. But it is encouraging enough to make public, the committee says. The expert committee was convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Its members reviewed all of the research on slowing mental decline. And the committee found that taking these three steps held the most promise:

  • Cognitive training.
  • Controlling blood pressure in people with hypertension.
  • Increasing physical activity.

Cognitive training. Studies suggest that specific types of “brain exercises” can prevent mental decline in the long term. Exercises that focus on problem-solving and testing your memory seem particularly helpful. So do exercises that test how quickly you can identify objects on a computer screen.

Controlling blood pressure. There are multiple links between cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Most people with dementia show signs of cerebrovascular disease. Studies in which people lowered their high blood pressure resulted in fewer strokes. So it makes sense that managing blood pressure would reduce the risk of dementia.

Increasing physical activity. Improving physical activity could have a major impact on rates of mental decline, according to the committee. Physical activity is good for the heart and vascular system. It can help lower blood pressure. Its numerous benefits suggest it could delay or slow age-related cognitive decline.

Much more research needs to be done to find ways to prevent mental decline. Right now these are the three of the most promising areas. You can read more about the report, Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward, online.

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