The Fight Against Cognitive Decline: Exercising Mind and Body

We did it. According to the latest Census figures Americans are more than ever closer to reaching 90 years of age. We’ve managed to extend our lifespan to previously unimaginable numbers. But the question can’t but come to mind. At what cost? We live longer, but are we happier? What of our health, physical and mental?

People of old age inescapably face some kind of cognitive decline. One side effect of aging is cognitive impairment, particularly prominent in actions like fact and name recalling, language use and memory lapses. The figures are looming, up to 20% of people older than 65, suffer from mild cognitive impairment, a decline of cognitive skills that’s said to be a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease.

Jump up and down, then study

Healthy lifestyle choices, when one is still young, substantially contribute in slowing down the cognitive decline process. Numerous studies however, point out that it’s never too late to prevent your brain from going rusty. A 2012 study published in the Behavioral Neurobiology of Aging journal asserts that a combination of physical and cognitive exercising benefits older people’s cognitive performance. The study supports that physical and intellectual practicing slows down cognitive decline by keeping the mind active and fit.

Overall cognitive exercising

Rather than focusing on a single cognitive skill, a study took a different approach looking I ways that an overall mental practicing system can sharpen people’s cognitive skills.

This study was part of the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly clinical trial and focused on elderly people who already suffered from some memory impairment. Rather than seeking ways to remedy their memory impairment, the study focus on improving and keeping healthy other cognitive mechanisms. The findings suggested that people with mild memory loss benefited from cognitive practicing that was irrelevant to memory. In fact, they were able to significantly improve their speed for processing information and reasoning.

Technology at your service

Just when we thought technology is to blame for obesity and the appalling inertness that takes over nations, a study by Mayo Clinic has confirmed that the combination of exercising and computer use helps lower the chances for memory loss. The findings suggested a 20% decrease in one’s chances of getting mild cognitive impairment when the subject both exercises and uses a computer.

Pajama parties

In a study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that socializing is crucial in preventing memory loss in the elderly. The study looked into how socializing helped people prevent or slow down memory loss. Their social integration with other people, family and their community more generally had a positive impact on their mental health as socialization keeps people mentally active, among other advantages.

We cannot attribute cognitive decline to a single factor or cause, it is affected by so many parameters and personal characteristics that we can only make hypotheses as to how each person might better counteract brain aging.

However, a general course of action still applies; mild physical exercising, relaxation and meditation, and brain exercising are a good start in keeping your mind sharp and your memory fit.