Protect Your Aging Brain – Start With Exercise
Written by Editor   
Thursday, May 14, 2015 12:00 AM

There are things people can do to preserve their brain function as they age, a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests.

Changes in mental functions and capabilities are a part of aging and occur with everyone. The extent and nature of these changes vary widely and are gradual, and aging can have both positive and negative effects on cognition [thinking skills]. Wisdom and knowledge can increase with age, while memory and attention can decline.

But there are things people can do to promote brain health. These include being physically active, and reducing and managing heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

Other actions that may help protect an aging brain include being socially and intellectually active, and always trying to learn new things. Getting enough sleep and seeking help for sleep disorders if necessary can also make a difference, the report found.

People should also carefully evaluate any products -- including medications, supplements and training programs -- that claim to improve thinking, the committee advised.  There is conflicting evidence about the possible brain benefits of crossword puzzles, joining a book club, playing card games or learning to play a musical instrument, the committee found. And there is little evidence that vitamins and supplements marketed for brain health live up to their claims.