Brain Health – Maintain a Sharp Mind and Support Cognitive Function

Brain Health – Maintain a Sharp Mind and Support Cognitive Function

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Brain Health – Maintain a Sharp Mind and Support Cognitive Function

It’s obvious to everyone that healthy brain function is essential to life. The brain is the organ that transmits signals to every other organ of the body, coordinating each of their functions with smooth precision. This process is conducted with such regularity that we often take it for granted and don’t give it a second thought. However, the brain is also the seat of mental focus and cognitive function. In young age, these faculties work without a hitch. However, as we get older we often notice that we begin to lose a step; our cognitive faculties may not be what they once were and our memory begins to decline. Mental sharpness and clarity, accurate memory and quick decision-making, all communicated clearly and with confidence – this is how our brain used to function. Now, perhaps not so much. Yet, there are things that can help us maintain the cognitive faculties of our youth. By incorporating healthy lifestyle choices and intelligent nutritional management, we can remain sharp far longer than we might have imagined.

Brain Aging
Once past middle-age, the human brain begins a normal decline in performance that is linked to anatomic and biochemical losses. Free radical accumulation over the years takes its toll and begins to affect neural structures and functions. Not only does the number of active brain cells (neurons) decline, those that remain may communicate in an increasingly haphazard manner as they “lose touch” with the cells around them and with whom they have enjoyed many years of smooth cooperation. Some neurons actually shrink away from their neighbors, presenting a strong barrier to the cooperation among many neurons that every brain function requires. Neurons also may experience changes in the composition of their outer membranes. These changes can include the disappearance of some of the “receptor” molecules that should be there to receive the chemical messages being sent by the cells’ coworkers – preventing the cells from working together.

Is Brain Aging Inevitable?
Everyone seems to experience his or her own individual rate of decline in brain function. It is rapid in some and moderate in most, but barely noticeable in the “lucky” few. This observation begs the questions – what do they have and how can you get it? And just as important – if decline already has started, can it be turned around? What does the scientific evidence have to say?

Brain Aging is Not Inevitable
Declining cognitive performance is nearly universal after 70 years of age. However, any initial deficits do not mean that total loss is just around the corner. For example, in one study of elderly individuals with mild degrees of cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, after 2 to 3 years only 20% had gotten worse while another 20% actually improved on their own – and the other 60% remained about the same.1 Other reports2-5 confirm the conclusion that initially mild cognitive decline can stabilize or even be reversed. While we will get into this discussion later, maintaining a healthy antioxidant to pro-oxidant balance may be an important factor in maintaining cognitive health with age. This includes wise lifestyle choices, ensuring antioxidant-rich dietary intake and smart supplementation with nutrients that support brain health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Maintain a Sharp Mind and Support Cognitive Function: Essential Brain Nourishment

References:
1. Wolf H, Grunwald M, Ecke GM, Zedlick D, Bettin S, Dannenberg C, Dietrich J, Eschrich K, Arendt T, Gertz HJ. The prognosis of mild cognitive impairment in the elderly. J Neural Transm 1998;54(Suppl.):31-50
2. Petersen RC, Smith GE, Waring SC, Ivnik RJ, Tangalos EG, Kokman E. Mild cognitive impairment: Clinical characterization and outcome. Arch Neurol 1999;56:303-308.
3. Johnson KA, Jones K, Holman BL. Preclinical prediction of Alzheimer’s disease using SPECT. Neurology 1998;50:1563-1572.
4. Black SE. Can SPECT predict the future for mild cognitive impairment? Can J Neurol Sci 1999;26:4-6.
5. Ritchie K, Artero S, Touchon J. Classification criteria for mild cognitive impairment: a population-based validation study. Neurology 2001;56:37-42.


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