Lifestyle May Be Key to Slowing Brain’s Aging

Continuing our tour of articles that catch my eye I present you with this one from the Washington Post.

“Like many Americans sliding into middle age, Kimberly McClain started worrying that her memory was beginning to slip.

“It was little things. I couldn’t remember what I had for dinner the night before. I had to check to make sure I’d paid the insurance that month. I’d walk into a room and realize I had no idea why I was there,” said the Los Angeles marriage counselor, who is 44.

So McClain started a program designed to help — a detailed regimen that includes daily memory exercises.

“I’m much clearer now,” McClain said. “I have no problem finding my keys. I can tell you what I had for dinner last night. I’m not walking into a room thinking, ‘Why did I come in here?’ “

McClain is among the increasing number of Americans who are performing mental calisthenics, taking Italian classes, deciphering crossword puzzles and hunting for other ways to try to keep their minds from fading.

A large body of evidence indicates that people who are mentally active throughout their lives are significantly less likely to suffer senility, and a handful of studies have found that mental exercises can boost brain function. Elderly people who go through training to sharpen their wits, for example, score much better on thinking tests for years afterward. The minds of younger people who drill their memories seem to work more efficiently.

But it remains far from clear exactly which of the myriad use-it-or-lose-it methods promoted by researchers, self-help books and health groups protect the brain in the long term, and actually reduce the risk for dementia. So scientists, increasingly employing high-tech brain scans, have launched an incipient wave of research to determine what works and why.

“We’re right at the cusp of understanding this,” said Sherry Willis of Pennsylvania State University. “Because brain imaging work has become so much more technologically sophisticated, we’re now at the point where we literally look inside people’s brains to try to understand what’s going on.”

I have three grandparents who are all in their 90s now. All of them are stil sharp mentally, but I can see the edges starting to blur a little. From a purely selfish perspective I am concerned with doing what I can to see that my old age is as comfortable as possible as it seems reasonable to expect to be around for many more years.

Actually one of the reasons that I began and continue blogging is because I like to think. It is good to work on things that will help expand your mind. I see so many benefits in doing this kind of stuff. Very important.

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  1. Lyss August 16, 2005 at 1:05 am

    Informative. And somehow makes me feel less weird about my obsession with crossword puzzles.

  2. Cindra August 16, 2005 at 12:45 am

    I’m with you. I have two brothers who have Huntington’s Disease. Their brains are quickly fading along with other skills and one is in his 40’s the other early 50’s. I have learned to knit because it is a great brain skill. To say I want to make sense is stretching it because that is something for which I have never been known, but it would be nice to remember. We need to keep our minds open and lively thirsty for knowledge.

  3. PsychoToddler August 15, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    Use it or lose it.

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