Healthy Living

Preventing Dementia: Tips to Stay Sharp

Preventing Dementia: Tips to Stay Sharp

When someone looks at brain scans, they may notice that there are a few dark areas. In the dark areas, cerebral spinal fluid is filling up the blank spaces formed by a shrinking and aging brain. As people age, they lose brain tissue, which affects their ability to remember, think, and learn over time.

Susan Bookheimer, the Joaquin Fuster Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA asks, “How do some people manage to stay sharp and what are the factors that predict who is going to stay sharp? Do they make better, more efficient use of the brain cells they have? Is there a richer, more elaborative, connected network? We honestly have no idea.”

The UCLA study, including sites at Washington University in St. Louis, The University of Minnesota, and Massachusetts General Hospital, are trying to get the answers to these questions. They are compiling a vast public database of brain information. The study is a two-year plan that includes scanning the brains of 300 healthy people who range from 35 to over 100. The study collects cognitive data, takes blood pressure measurements, checks hormone levels, and studies body mass index. After the studies conclude in 2019, researchers will re-scan the participants, which will allow them to document changes.

The project is the Lifespan Human Connectome Project Aging (HCP-A) Study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. This research study is an extension of the Human Connectome Project that involves more than 1,100 healthy young adults ranging in ages 22-35. Connectome is the mapping of wiring and connections between regions of the brain.

Bookheimer, principal investigator for the UCLA section of the study, compares the brain to a map of airline hubs. She states that the brain is like the hubs and the flights between the hubs of an airport. Every section has a pathway and a connection. To illustrate this point, researchers included images of MRI’s showing brain structure, plus MRI-based “diffusion imagining,” which highlight the brain’s white matter tracts, and functional MRI's that measure brain activity by following changes with blood flow.

When all these statistics, studies, and medical images are analyzed, scientists will have a picture of how a brain shrinks and dementia occurs.

10 brain exercises to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia

The Human Connectome Project is mapping aging and the brain. In the meantime, you can help your brain stay healthy and vigorous by following different brain exercises and training.

First and foremost, take care of your entire body now. Diet, supplements, and exercise that keep the body healthy will help avoid brain degeneration.

Brain training exercises are one of the best ways to keep your state of mind healthy. Keeping your mind working while forming new neuro-connections and preserving older connections is vital. As you do brain exercises, if you find your daily puzzle is getting more challenging, you know to get checked out. Once you see the problem, you can work with medical professionals to get the medications, supplements, and exercises that may slow or stop the damage.

Brain training is a good idea, but it is not like going to a brain gym, unfortunately. You must know where your problems are. If you have a problem with numbers, focus on number exercises. Memory brain exercises are great tools to use to work on memory and building strong connections. There are also hundreds of apps that will help you with brain exercises.

Read on for the top 10  things you can do to stay sharp!