How can we keep our brain healthy in older age, Biology

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Is there anything I can do to keep my brain healthy in older age?

It is increasingly clear that how we live our lives on a daily basis strongly influences how well our brain ages. When our genetic make-up also plays a role in brain health - many diseases of aging brain may be at least partly because of gene mutations -lifestyle choices we make throughout life are critical. A number of long-term studies, some still ongoing, have tracked older adults' activities and habits to conclude what distinguishes people who retain good mental faculties into old age from those who fare less well. Some of the characteristics which stand out above others include:  

  • Staying mentally active by engaging brain in stimulating and challenging activities which force us to use our brain in novel ways;
  • Staying physically active through regular exercise (for example 30 minutes or more of brisk walking three times a week) or by pursuing active leisure activities which get you out and moving;
  • Having a sense of effectiveness in world and control over our lives, including feeling which we contribute to our families and/or society, and feeling good about ourselves;
  • Sustaining a strong network of social connections, including regular contact with family, friends, and other people in our community and beyond.

Scientists have also uncovered interesting correlations between brain health and heart health. It turns out that many of the things we associate with heart healthy living are also good for brain. Additionally to exercise, this includes keeping weight, cholesterol and blood glucose levels in check; managing stress so that it doesn't overwhelm us; and eating a healthy diet with plenty of antioxidant vitamins (particularly vitamins A, C, and E, found in many fruits and  vegetables) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like swordfish, tuna, salmon, and mackerel).

Bottom line is that the things we do every day can and do make a difference in how well our memory and learning abilities hold up as we age. Simple changes can make a big impact and there is no better time than present to embark on a brain-healthy lifestyle.

 


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