Boost brain fitness to prevent dementia

Jan. 6, 2013 at 11:54 PM
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SEATTLE, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- In January, many focus on physical fitness, but a U.S. aging expert says effort should be also made to boost mental fitness to prevent dementia.

Dr. Paul Nussbaum, director of brain health for Emeritus Senior Living and clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said statistics about Alzheimer's disease are alarming, but they demonstrated how crucial it is to adopt a brain fitness program.

"Walking daily, dancing and other forms of aerobic activity help blood flow to the brain," Nussbaum said in a statement. "Fruit and vegetables are beneficial for cognitive health. So are foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as certain fish and nuts, and antioxidants, which are foods containing vitamins A, C or E."

In addition to physical fitness and healthy diet, Nussbaum said three other practices could have a positive impact on the brain:

-- Socialization: Make an effort to connect and spend time with other people, in person rather than virtually. Research shows isolation and loneliness increase the risk of developing dementia.

-- Mental stimulation: Engage in mental activities that aren't initially easy for you, whether it's learning a new language, taking up Scrabble or other pastime not tried before. Doing so will stimulate the cortex and build brain reserve.

-- Spirituality: Research suggests stress, which has been shown to adversely affect animal brains, is also detrimental to humans. It's important to slow down and take the time to engage in spirituality in the way most comfortable, whether daily prayer, regular formal worship or by meditating and reflecting.

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