Real brain boost­ers

The Buffalo News - - WEATHER -

If you’re truly in need of a brain boost, ex­perts recommend caf­feine as a safer and more ef­fec­tive, al­beit tem­po­rary, bet.

Of course, sup­ple­ments are only one of sev­eral arms of the mem­ory-en­hanc­ing industry. There are also videos, games, puz­zles, pro­grams and whathave-you cur­rently being mar­keted. None of these are a prob­lem if peo­ple have fun do­ing them, as long as they don’t ig­nore mea­sures far more likely to re­duce the risk or de­lay the on­set of de­men­tia.

Some of these prod­ucts may even be help­ful up to a point. Re­searchers at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix re­ported in JAMA Neu­rol­ogy two years ago that older peo­ple who en­gage in men­tally stim­u­lat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as games, crafts and com­puter use have a lower risk of de­vel­op­ing mild cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment, of­ten a pre­cur­sor to de­men­tia.

The re­searchers, led by Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a psy­chi­a­trist and be­hav­ioral neu­rol­o­gist at Mayo, fol­lowed nearly 2,000 cog­ni­tively nor­mal peo­ple 70 or older for an av­er­age of four years.

Af­ter ad­just­ing the re­sults for sex, age and ed­u­ca­tion level, they found that com­puter use de­creased the par­tic­i­pants’ risk of cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment by 30 per­cent, en­gag­ing in crafts de­creased it by 28 per­cent, and play­ing games de­creased it by 22 per­cent.

Geda said that those who per­formed such ac­tiv­i­ties at least once or twice a week ex­pe­ri­enced less cog­ni­tive de­cline than those who did the same ac­tiv­i­ties at most only three times a month.

Also help­ful is if play­ers par­tic­i­pate with other peo­ple; so­cial en­gage­ment has re­peat­edly been shown to ben­e­fit health and longevity.

Diet and sleep mat­ter

For the most part, play­ing brain-train­ing games can make you bet­ter at the games them­selves, but the ben­e­fits don’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late into im­proved per­for­mance in other ac­tiv­i­ties. Three years ago, the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion chal­lenged Lu­mos­ity’s claim that its games can sharpen mem­ory or brain power in real-world set­tings. Cit­ing de­cep­tive ad­ver­tis­ing, the agency said the com­pany of­fered prizes to con­sumers who at­tested to the games’ ef­fec­tive­ness.

What re­ally works to sup­port brain health as you age? Start with the very same foods that can help to keep your heart healthy: a Mediter­ranean-style diet re­plete with fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, low-fat dairy and olive oil. In a ma­jor study called MIND, se­niors who adopted such a diet and limited salt in­take had a 35 per­cent lower risk for cog­ni­tive de­cline as they aged, and strict ad­her­ence to the diet cut the risk by more than 50 per­cent.

At the same time, avoid or strictly limit foods that can have toxic ef­fects on the brain, like red and es­pe­cially pro­cessed meats, cheese and but­ter, fried foods, pas­tries, sug­ars and re­fined car­bo­hy­drates like white rice and white bread, none of which are good for the heart ei­ther.

This diet would also re­duce the risk of high blood pres­sure and Type 2 di­a­betes, both of which can fos­ter cog­ni­tive de­cline or de­men­tia.

In a Chi­nese study of 17,700 older adults free of de­men­tia, those who con­sumed at least three serv­ings of veg­eta­bles and two serv­ings of fruits a day were sig­nif­i­cantly less likely to de­velop de­men­tia dur­ing the next six years.

Fi­nally, don’t skimp on sleep, which gives the brain a chance to form new mem­o­ries. Re­searchers suggest striv­ing for seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night.

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