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How is Your Mental Muscle?

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Certain conditions also greatly accelerate this aging, while hyperten.

As with every organ and system in your body, your brain is subjected to age-related changes. Levels of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters decline, as does access to vital oxygen and nutrients.

Certain conditions also greatly accelerate this aging, while hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetes all increase your risk of memory problems.

As dull as this may sound, the best thing you can do to preserve mental functioning in old age is to take care of yourself when you're younger. This means eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, as well as supplementing with antioxidants and B vitamins. Beyond this, here are five more targeted things you can do to ensure graceful aging of your brain:

  • Use it or lose it: Flex those mental muscles. Like physical exercise, which creates stronger muscle fibres, working out your brain strengthens existing neuronal pathways and builds new ones. Seattle researchers conducting a long-term study on aging invited older people with memory decline to participate in five one-hour sessions to teach them how to hone their reasoning skills and quicken their reaction time. Improvements were dramatic. Some tested 14 years younger than they had prior to instruction!
  • Feed your brain: Cold-water fish (i.e., salmon, herring, sardines and trout) and flax are great "brain foods." They are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids healing fats that are essential for proper mental function but are generally deficient from the diet. I recommend eating cold-water fish several times a week, and having one to two tablespoons of flax oil, or up to one-quarter cup of freshly ground flax seed, daily. You can't use flax seed oil in cooking or baking, as it's extremely fragile. It's best used in salad dressing or as a spread. Fish oil or flax oil supplements are another option.
  • Check your medicine chest: If you're over age 65, chances are you have a drug problem. Not illegal drugs I'm talking about the adverse effects of drugs you are taking under doctor's orders. Drugs designed to alter brain function, such as antidepressants, tranquilizers and barbituates, are particularly damaging to memory and alertness. Even antihistamines, ulcer drugs, glaucoma eye drops, digitalis, muscle relaxants, painkillers and some drugs for incontinence and hypertension can interfere with brain function.
  • Get help from brain boosters: Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid, a specialized fat that is a major structural component of nerve cell membranes. It acts as a sentry to control what goes in and out of cells and is involved in communication between nerve cells. Nearly 3,000 clinical studies show that supplemental PS improves memory, learning and concentration.
  • Ginkgo biloba has been proven to improve circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain. In a 1992 review of six clinical studies, ginkgo improved cognitive function in adults suffering from memory loss caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. Other studies have shown that ginkgo can improve some measures of Alzheimer's and sharpen memory in healthy older people.
  • Consider safe anti-inflammatories: Inflammation has also been linked to Alzheimer's and age-related memory loss. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help prevent Alzheimer's. In this study of nearly 7,000 people aged 55 and older, those who used NSAIDs for at least two years were 80 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than individuals who used NSAIDs for shorter periods or not at all.

While I do not recommend taking NSAIDs to prevent Alzheimer's they have far too many negative side-effects safer anti-inflammatories such as fish oil, curcumin (turmeric extract), ginger and feverfew should be considered.

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