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Brain Fitness


ALZHEIMER'S AND MIND DIET

 

Current research is suggesting that 20-40% of ALZHEIMER'S disease risk is due to modifiable lifestyle factors. Martha Claire Morris of Rush University has developed the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, the MIND Diet. This diet emphasizes plant-based whole foods, fish and poultry, and olive oil as the primary oil. Additional foods to include are leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, and even 1 glass of wine per day. Foods to avoid are red meat, butter or margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried food. Her research indicated that strict adherence to the MIND diet was associated with a 53% risk reduction and moderate adherence resulted in a 35% risk reduction. Morris points out that leafy greens and berries can be particularly protective of the aging brain.


BRAIN FITNESS

 

Recent research has found that the brain has the capacity to grow and change well into old age. If you remain mentally active, you may delay or generally avoid memory loss. Playing strategy and thinking games, working crossword puzzles, doing brain teasers, and continually learning and acquiring complex skills keeps your brain fit. Physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain which helps increase the production of neurons, allowing brain cells to multiply at a faster rate. Mental exercise causes brain neurons to grow more branches or dendrites leading to millions of additional synapses between brain cells. This additional brain tissue may help compensate for other brain tissue that is damaged due to disease or aging.


TAKE CARE OF YOUR BRAIN

 

Maintaining and/or improving your mental functioning is a key to staying young and reducing your risk of cognitive decline. According to the February 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic's Embody Health newsletter, here are some recommendations to help you preserve your mental abilities: GET REGULAR AEROBIC EXERCISE: Studies have shown that exercise increases gray matter and increases neural activation and connectivity. DON'T SMOKE: If you need another reason, a study of nearly 1,400 adults concluded that middle aged smokers were at an increased risk of brain atrophy and cognitive decline 10 years later. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: Research indicates a link between obesity and cognitive decline. HAVE A SENSE OF PURPOSE: A study of 2,509 adults in their 70's found that those who worked or volunteered were more likely to remain cognitively healthy. The social connection helps a lot, too. MEDITATE: Studies have shown that regular meditation can help maintain or improve your memory and learning ability.


EXERCISE YOUR BODY AND YOUR MIND

 

The National Council on Aging reports in a 1999 study that people over 60 who walked for 45 minutes at a 16 minute per mile pace increased their mental acuity. Exercise has been shown in many studies to combat the symptoms of depression. Try this to increase your mental and physical alertness: Watch a show like Jeopardy while using the treadmill. Exercising the mind and body in combination may just give you a boost!