October 14, 2015 in Senior Living

A guide to keeping your brain in shape

Can mental decline be delayed or reversed?

Psychologists Henry Emmons and David Alter tackled that life-changing question in their recently released book, “Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom.”

Can you keep your brain in shape?

When I asked the doctors if actively following these 9 keys will delay or prevent cognitive decline, they replied in an email, “The answer may be both.”

“We have to distinguish between delaying or even preventing physical or structural changes in brain tissue from postponing the cognitive or behavioral signs of cognitive decline (e.g., memory loss or diminished planning and organizational abilities). There is no question the 9 keys can delay the expression of cognitive decline, especially when the 9 keys are practiced beginning earlier in life.

“Many studies show that early signs of physical brain changes that eventually show up as dementia may begin 15 or 20 or more years earlier. So, the sooner these 9 keys are put into practice, the greater the opportunity to build brain resilience (more diverse and denser nerve connections in the brain) that appear to be neuro-protective for long-term brain health,” they said.

The 9 keys build greater neural reserve, better enabling us to ward off showing the effects of cognitive decline even when structural changes in our brains may be developing. “As to actually preventing these physical changes in the brain from ever arising, the positive evidence is still accumulating, but firm conclusions are premature,” the psychologists said.

What is a youthful brain?

So, what are the 9 keys in developing a youthful brain?

A youthful brain loves movement, is well-rested, well-nourished, cultivates curiosity, flexible, optimistic, empathetic, well-connected and authentic. In a press release for the book, the doctors offer these strategies in developing a youthful brain:

Small changes may pay big dividends

What is the essential message of the psychologists’ book?

The doctors say, “Aging by itself is neither good nor bad. It just is. But, how we engage our aging is largely a matter of the many small changes we make each and every day that largely determine the path our life will follow. ‘Staying Sharp’ offers a clear and accessible set of skills that when practiced regularly have been shown to forge a path to a youthful brain, vibrant mind and an awakened heart.”

Are you working toward having a more youthful brain?

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