Tips for improving brain health

Recent research from New Zealand suggests people who walk slower in middle age, may age faster and have more brain dysfunction.


Cleveland Clinic Emeritus Chief Wellness Officer Michael Roizen, MD, did not take part in the study, but says our physical and mental health are tied together.“As you stress your muscles as you walk faster, you produce hormones and proteins that stimulate your brain to grow and stimulate brain function. So, there is some rationale to this.”


Researchers looked at more than 40 years’ worth of data on 904 people in New Zealand. They studied participants’ mental function starting at age three, and followed them into middle age.


Results show slow walking speed at age 45 was associated with accelerated aging and brain decline.


Dr. Roizen said it is well known that slow walking speed in the elderly is a sign of deteriorating mental function. However, he said identifying a slower walking pace, while still in your forties, provides an opportunity to intervene.


“As early as 45, you could tell these people were on a downhill slope. What does that mean? It means that if you look at your walking speed and it starts to slow, do all the other things for brain health,” said Dr. Roizen.


To improve brain health, Dr. Roizen recommends stress management, physical activity, speed processing games, and avoiding saturated fats and sugars – to name a few.


Habits for better brain health

Dylan Wint, MD, of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, agrees that brain health can be improved, saying up to 35 percent of risk for Alzheimer’scan be eliminated with healthy habits.


“Top one among those is getting lots of aerobic exercise. We recommend 150 minutes per week. So, for most people thatwillwork out to 20 or 30 minutes per day, then eating a healthy diet,” he says.


“So, eating lots of leafy green vegetables, good oils such as those found in fish and in nuts, lots of fresh fruit, particularly berries, seem to confer some health benefits in terms of both preserving brain health, as well as general health.”


However, he cautions against relying on a dietary supplement to give your brain a boost.


“Supplements haven’t been proven to improve memory,” said Dr. Wint. “There is some mixed evidence on Vitamin E perhaps preserving cognition, but the strongest evidence seems to be in people who already have Alzheimer’s disease.”


There is good news if you are hooked on brain teasers, keeping your mind active will benefit your brain – but there is a catch, he says.


“What you really want to do to challenge your brain is learn new things,” Dr. Wint says. “If you’re doing something very verbal, like a crossword puzzle and you’re very used to that, maybe switch to something mathematical and logical, like Sudoku.”


Dr. Wint says socializing is a powerful cognitive exercise too, so interacting with others will help keep your brain active.


He also recommends avoiding excessive alcohol, smoking and head trauma for a healthy brain.


30 June 2020.