The New York Times ran a story yesterday in Well, its health blog, titled Mental Reserves Keep Brains Agile. Jane Brody, the author of the piece, writes that while many elderly people suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia, others seem to maintain their cognitive skills until the day they die.
The catch is this: while the differences in their behavior while they are living are evident, when scientists take a look at their brains once they've passed, they BOTH show signs of cognitive decline, a symptom of Alzheimer's.
Columbia scientists have given this phenomenon a name: cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve is your brains ability to maintain extra neurons and keep the connections between them running strong.
Despite cognitive decline like the kind seen in Alzheimer's and dementia sufferers, if one can maintain a certain level of cognitive reserve, they may live happy and full lives right until the end.
So, how can you make sure your cognitive reserve keeps going strong? her are some suggestions from Brody.
1. Cognitive reserve is greater in people who complete higher levels of education, and who did so earlier in life.
2. Novelty is crucil for cognitive upkeep. If you knit, make sure you learn new patterns after a while, don't just stick to the one you know. Instead of listening to classical piano, try learning chopsticks, or another simple tune. The list goes on.
3. The more extensive your social network is as you age, the more likely you are to maintain your cognitive reserve.
4. Exercise. Those who have have exercised all their life have much better brain function later in life than those who don't. And even if you've never exercised before, and your 60, studies show that if you start exercising now, you'll cut your risk for dementia in half. Something as simple as a 30 minute walk will do.
Published On: December 12, 2007