Thoughts Video games: Conserving Your Mind Sharpened Eradicate Puzzles Fixing – Life-style – Aurora Advertiser – Aurora, MO
Spiritual decline is one of the most feared aspects of aging. People will do almost anything to prevent this from happening, from ingesting supplements, which are touted as memory boosters, to spending hours solving Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
But do these things really keep the aging brain sharp? The short answer isn’t real.
“Spending an hour or two on puzzles can certainly help you focus,” said Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, a Canadian neurologist and global expert in the field of brain health. “It’s good because you’re training your brain. But don’t expect too much from it. “
One in eight Americans age 60 and older reports having at least some memory loss, and about 35% of them report problems with brain function, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While this doesn’t always lead to full blown dementia, the number of older people in the US struggling with cognitive problems is growing: the CDC predicts the number of people in the US with dementia – including the most common form, Alzheimer’s disease – will almost triple to around 14 million people by 2060.
Research suggests that there are indeed ways to prevent or delay many types of cognitive loss, but they don’t involve fish oil supplements or brain teasers. Instead, Hachinski and others in the field agree that people who want to keep brain functioning well should take the same steps to protect their heart.
“When you have a good heart, you have a good brain,” said Dr. Rong Zhang, professor of neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Whatever risk factors are harmful to your heart, such as high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, or lack of physical activity, those things are also bad for your brain.”
The link between heart health and brain health is well established.
The American Heart Association and an expert-led Lancet commission advise people to focus on their risk factors for heart disease and stroke. These include lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels; getting enough sleep; do not smoke; Limitation of alcohol consumption; healthy eating; exercise at least 150 minutes per week; Maintaining a healthy weight; and stay socially active. The Lancet Commission recently expanded its list of dementia risk factors to include mid-life head injuries and exposure to air pollution.
Researchers believe that at least 40% of dementias can be prevented or delayed by modifying these risk factors. Hachinski said the percentage could well be higher if more strokes were prevented. He was the lead author of a 2019 paper published by the World Stroke Organization calling for the common prevention of stroke and dementia.
Stroke doubles the chances of developing dementia and high blood pressure is a strong predictor of stroke, Hachinski said, adding that an estimated 90% of strokes are preventable.
“All major dementias have a vascular component (blood vessel component),” he said, because the brain needs good blood flow to provide enough nutrients and oxygen to function properly. “If you control the vascular component, you can reduce or prevent dementia.”
While major strokes cause an obvious and sudden decline in cognitive function, people are more likely to have smaller, silent strokes that they don’t even know are occurring, Hachinski said. These “mini-strokes” have been shown to accelerate mental decline, as does uncontrolled blood pressure at any age.
Type 2 diabetes, which can often be prevented or delayed by losing weight and increasing physical activity, also increases the risk of dementia by 60%.
“By and large, dementia is gradually setting in,” said Hachinski, comparing the process to “descending into an abyss.” This can be done in different ways, at different rates, and at different depths. “
The best way to slow this decline is to identify your personal risk factors and then address the biggest ones. Do you need to lose weight? Exercise More? Eat healthier? Are You Lowering Your Blood Sugar?
“Do you know your family history. Do you have an idea of what you have in front of you, ”he said. “Have your blood pressure measured. Risk factors love company. When you have high blood pressure, there is no doubt that you are dealing with other things. “
During the day, the brain consumes a lot of energy, discarding excess proteins that accumulate like trash in a teenager’s room. “The brain needs a way to get rid of these bad proteins,” said Zhang, “to get rid of the waste.” When there is a lot of trash in the environment, the brain hurts. “
Exercise helps with this clearance, and so does sleep, he said.
Building good health habits for the brain should begin long before cognition decline, experts advise.
“In middle age, the risk increases pretty quickly,” said Hachinski. “It’s never too late, but the earlier the better. I think the most important thing is to get started. “