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2 Things You Need for a Younger Brain
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Henry S Lodge, MD posted:
When I was in medical school, we were taught that you got all your brain cells by the time you were two years old. And by age 30, you start to lose them. Cognitive aging was simply the slow, steady loss of brain cells that occurred as you age. Well, it turns out this was wrong! Scientists around the world have demonstrated that your brain can continue to grow throughout your life -- growing new cells, forming new connections, and rewiring existing ones. But this only happens if you use it. An idle brain will wither and decay, which leads to the decline in cognitive function that we once accepted as being part of the normal aging process.

There are two great roads to rejuvenating your brain, and they might surprise you:
- Exercise. MRI studies show marked growth in new brain tissue after three months of regular exercise. This growth is not just in the parts of the brain that control movement. It's also evident in the areas responsible for memory, decision-making, and judgment.

- Social Connectedness. Your brain grows and thrives in direct proportion with the meaningful social connections you have -- meaning your engagement with friends, family, and your community. People who are lonely and depressed actually lose brain tissue overtime and show marked reductions in cognitive function. But people who stay connected with others and give back to their communities improve their chances of staying vibrant and sharp well into their later years.

There's a wonderful scientific study going on that's a great example of the power of staying connected. A program called Experience Corps is putting older people in schools as reading tutors for young kids. The kids are doing better, of course. But the tutors are doing better too -- a lot better! All markers of health are improving -- blood pressure and weight are going down, and mood and energy are going up. What's also interesting is that a wide range of blood tests that measure inflammation (linked to long-term risks of heart attack, stroke, and common cancers) also show improvement with social connection and emotional involvement!

Are you surprised at the control we can have over our brain health? Could this prompt you to make different lifestyle choices?
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davedsel57 responded:
Hello Dr. Lodge and everyone.

This is an excellent topic for discussion. As a disabled 55 year old man I try my best to keep my brain active and my body, though that is a real challenge most days.

I am also concerned because my now 82 year old dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in January 2011. I am thinking of talking to my doctor at my December appointment about testing for early onset just in case. There is a lot of stress in our lives, but sometimes I feel like my brain does not always function at peak performance.

I am active in several communities on WebMD, do crossword puzzles and other games that exercise my brain, and also administer a private Christian weight loss support forum. On good days I try to do my duties as the full-time dear disabled househusband. I do the shopping for our family, all the cooking and keeping the house. My wife works full time and is dealing with chronic pain from a back injury at work that happened in March 2011.

I take my dad places and bring him things as needed at his assisted living facility, and assist my wife with what she needs to do to help her aging (87 and 89) year old parents. Her dad also has dementia and is in the late stages. Still at home, but we assist and her mom is primary care giver.

I fully believe in keeping the brain as active as possible, as well as the body.
Click on my user name or avatar picture to read my story.

Blessings,

-Dave
 
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jackflaming responded:
I completely agree with you sir. To keep our brain active and working, we need to do regular exercise. Can you please suggest me some good brain related exercises? Thanks in advance.
 
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jkinde responded:
I'm older (early 50s), so I stay in classes at the community college.I hope that keeps my connections staying active. I make friends two days a week every semester exchanging emails to stay in contact. I also take the stairs instead of the elevator,4 flghts. My legs burn by the top flight. I've had the same new friends forthe last 3 years and old friends 20 and 30 years.

Jkinde
 
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Rbeni2 responded:
Really good to read this information. I am aware that my memory is dwindling. This article portrays hope. I do read some and kinda stay connected to a few people on social networks, but kinda limited.

This article gives hope. Also somewhere recently (maybe Web MD or Cleveland Clinic) there is an article describing benefits ti brain function of taking aspirin daily (like taking aspirin for heart health".
 
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Henry S Lodge, MD replied to jackflaming's response:
I'm not a big fan of brain exercises per se. Doing crossword puzzles, for instance, simply makes you better at doing crossword puzzles. Your brain is a big huge vibrant organ, and it needs big huge vibrant tasks to thrive and grow.

Physical exercise turns out to be one of these, and the risk of Alzheimer's is 40% lower in fit people than in sedentary people. It is, however, not the only way, and may not be even the most important way. Really meaningful social and intellectual engagement is the other way to turn on your brain. Friendships, and family, count for a huge amount, but being involved in projects with other people, or individual projects you care deeply about and work hard at, has enormous benefit as well.

To my mind, the projects have to be serious, though they can be for profit, not for profit, or purely personal interest and passions. I think we need to simply be in harness in many directions in our lives, to have our brains fully challenged and growing, and really truly living your life fully -- physically and emotionally, and intellectually -- seems to me to be the only way to accomplish this, and the best way to live your life anyway!


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