Fighting Age-Related Cognitive Decline
No cure exists for Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, but people can potentially stave off or delay cognitive decline by practicing simple interventions and lifestyle changes.
Dr. G. Peter Gliebus, Director of the Capital Institute for Neurosciences Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Disorders Program, said vigorous exercise, mental activity and healthy eating can protect the brain as people age.
“We know changes in the brain begin 10 years before we ever see symptoms. So intervening years before we see signs of cognitive decline is key,” Dr. Gliebus said.
He said the following tips can help people keep their brains healthy as they age:
A healthy diet. A Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and fish appears to protect the brain.
Vigorous exercise. Physical exercise improves blood flow to the brain and protects the vascular system, potentially preventing strokes. “What is good for the heart is good for the brain,” Dr. Gliebus said.
Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. Drink only moderately.
Stay connected with family and friends. Studies show social activity can help the brain stay sharp.
Exercise the brain. Mental challenges such as Soduko, chess and brain “teasers” can stimulate the growth of new brain cells, building a reserve of brain cells to keep brain function strong.
Find new challenges. Learn a new language, or a musical instrument. “If the task is too easy, it is probably not helping. Your brain is like a muscle. Your muscle does not get stronger if you lift weights that feel light,” Dr. Gliebus said.
Maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Overall, good health can protect the brain. Diabetes, heart disease and other maladies can contribute to cognitive decline.
Dr. Gliebus said no guarantees exist to ensure that any person does not develop Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. “But studies continue to show us that our brains are not static. There are measures we can take to keep our brains functioning as well as possible as we age,” Dr. Gliebus said.