Last Updated on 16 February 2022 by Ray Plumlee
As we step into the golden period of our life, we see that our body goes into a process of change. It is not just our skin or physical health that goes into a declining procedure, but also our brain that is ready to undergo a major change. As we age, we start having trouble with our mental functions. What’s really a matter of concern is the cognitive impairment that is normal in older people.
Our biggest fear lies in the idea of being left out; we fear that just as we start having memory lapses, we may soon be left unknown to everyone. We fear that we might end up losing our intelligence and be drowned in a dark well of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss may be the outcome of any organic disorders, brain injury, or neurological illness.
Preventing Dementia and Cognitive Decline:
So, what can a person do to get far away from dementia and to prevent cognitive decline? The following general points may help:
• Physical exercise
• Enough sleep
• Staying away from smoking and alcohol
• Be socially active to some extent
• Get a healthy and balanced diet with low saturated and trans fats
Many studies are evident in the importance of the Mediterranean diet comprising of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Why The Brain Experiences a Decline?
The main cause of memory loss is the changes in the structure and function of the brain as we get older. This, in turn, leads to problems in the cognitive processes and prevents us from learning new things and doesn’t allow us to save it in our memory. These changes make us frustrated as we can’t get our responsibilities done. During aging, the volume of the brain gets reduced, and the brain shrinks, especially the frontal cortex. Thanks to recent studies we can easily cope with such a worrisome situation. Getting physically active is what is required as a crucial step in protecting your brain from early decline. So, let’s check in what ways exercise can help us improve brain function.
Exercise as a Means of Protecting Your Brain:
Scientists are studying the effect of exercise on brain function. Even simple yoga stretches and moderate-intensity exercises can have a profound effect on the brain to function properly. Exercises protect your brain in the following ways:
1. Memory Boost-up:
Hippocampus gets influenced by aerobic exercise, and it is the main center of the brain’s learning and memory processes. So this idea is supported by the fact that if you are cardiovascular fit, you are likely to have a memory boost-up.
2. Increases Concentration:
Exercise builds a focusing power in you and helps you stay concentrated on whatever work you are doing. Studies conducted in Holland and the US resulted in aerobic workouts and sports (respectively) improving the attention of the students towards their lectures. They were able to do multitasking, ignore distractions, and process complex tasks.
3. Mental Health:
Do exercise or else take antidepressants. Yes, you have heard me right! Exercise helps improving mental health as we all must have experienced that even a simple run gives an immense feeling of happiness and clarity. Studies suggest that yoga and meditation wouldn’t let the basolateral amygdala gray matter density to shrink as yoga is the best way to overcome stress.
Walking enhances creativity in people, and this idea later got supported by the psychologists. A paper published in 2014 gave a clue that walking on a treadmill or just wandering through the city builds creative thinking ability in the people.
5. Slows Cognitive Impairment:
You don’t need to get into those heavy exercise strategies; even brisk walking for 30-45 min three times a week can do wonders for you. Walking abstains from the wearing of the brain and slows down the progression of dementia. The same is the case with weightlifting and dancing; both of these enhance psychological and cognitive well-being.
6. Improves Circulation:
As you feel an increased heart rate during exercise, your brain gets more oxygen and glucose simultaneously. This process triggers the nerve impulses in the brain and maintains the acetylcholine receptors present at the nerve terminals connecting with muscles. These receptors are more in the brain of an active person as compared to the inactive one.
7. Learning and Memory:
Moderate physical exercise, like walking, can light up your memory function, learning, and reasoning processes. It is still unknown what causes such improved brain functions, but probably, it is because of improved oxygenation and nutrition in the brain.
8. New Brain Cells Formation:
We have been told that brain cells don’t grow as the brain gets fully developed at birth, so there is no need for new cells. But the Salk Institute Study showed that the brain produces new cells (neurogenesis) even in the adult age. So, who is behind it? Physical exercise is what playing its role in building a brain through a protein called Noggin. This brain protein causes neurogenesis and the production of stem cells.
9. Disease Prevention:
National Institute of Health suggests that cognitive decline gets improved in those people who are physically active. Age-related Alzheimer’s disease hits the idle person two times more than those who are into physical activities.
So, get out of your seats and start making a move today.
I am chief medical resident doctor in Internal Medicine at a tertiary care hospital. I am also an author and editor at StatPearls publishing, a medical website with thousands of PubMed indexed articles and MCQs.