Brain Health Important to 93% of Americans According to Survey

Caregiver, patient expert

A recent AARP survey discovered that 93% of Americans find maintaining brain health to be very important, however very few know the best ways to make this happen. When asked how to maintain brain health, results showed that many of the methods that are scientifically proven to improve or maintain brain health ranked as low priority areas for most respondents.

Since I had some questions about the survey, I asked Lynn Mento, Senior Vice President of AARP Membership, to help me out.

CBB: The National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer's organizations tell us that exercise, a healthy diet, socialization and mental challenges are all necessary to keep our brains healthy. Do you have anything to add to that list?

LM: Here at AARP we are always looking at cutting edge science to help people address some of their top concerns. We have five suggestions for people who want to support their brain health.

  • Staying fit

  • Learning more

  • Managing stress

  • Eating right

  • Being social

Our top five suggestions include managing stress to stay sharp because we have found several studies that say sleep and managing stress both support brain health.

More information:  Study Shows Stress Hormones Increase Alzheimer's Risk

CBB: Is there any new diet or exercise information that would surprise us or is the information that AARP is using essentially the same as the Alzheimer's Association would recommend?

LM: At AARP, we're focused on helping people maintain a healthy brain throughout their life by using a holistic approach to brain health. One example if this is new exercise information we've recently provided about the brain benefits of playing tennis. Tennis is a great way to work out your body and support your brain at the same time. Tennis keeps your brain on its toes while determining how to move your body to respond to your opponent's swings.   Your brain has to act quickly and in dynamic ways so you can get the ball back over the net. Compared to walking on a treadmill, tennis and other similar workout opportunities can also support your brain health.

More information:  Protein Produced During Exercise May Prevent Alzheimer's

CBB: Why do you think that this disconnect exists between a desire to keep one's brain healthy and the willingness to do what is needed? Is it denial, lack of education, lack of motivation or something else?

LM: Our survey found that nine out of 10 people think that brain health is very important, but few know the five ways we suggest to support it. While many know what they need to do to stay in shape or support their heart health, it seems that supporting brain health is not as clear.

To help fill that void, our new  AARP Staying Sharp membership  gives members access to curated brain exercises, a newsletter with simple steps to help support brain health, and quick videos on things they can incorporate into their daily lives - with video subjects like your brain on tennis or your brain on cinnamon - to make a difference.

More information:  Heart and Brain Health Closely Related

CBB: How do you suggest that doctors and other medical professionals motivate people to do what is needed for better overall health?

LM: AARP's research found that 70 percent of the respondents look to doctors to get information about brain health. If doctors can help share brain health tips at checkups and physicals it would give patients some of the tools to address the important desire to stay sharp.

More information:  One in Three Cases of Alzheimer's May be Lifestyle Related

CBB: Thank you Lynn, for this information. Your suggestion that tennis helps the brain is novel and makes complete sense. It seems that the boomers served by AARP need education and encouragement in order to care for their brains. We can hope that there is follow-through in order to help slow the growth in the numbers of new Alzheimer's cases each year.

Carol is a  newspaper  columnist and the  author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at  _  www.mindingourelders.com  _andwww.mindingoureldersblogs.com.  Follow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook: Minding Our Elders

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