As people become older, brain aging and the risk of developing a degenerative disease become serious concerns. Dementia is a primary cause of disability in the elderly and is associated with significant impairment of life quality and increased health care costs. The degeneration of the brain associated with aging is caused by several disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, strokes, fronto-temporal dementia and other less common types of neuro-degenerative diseases. Symptoms include significant memory loss, a reduction of reasoning skills and impairment of judgement, which can lead to a severely-impaired social life and require in-home or hospital care. Although the medical community widely accepted the belief that significant degeneration occurs in the brain only after the age of 65, recent research studies revealed that negative changes in the nervous tissues start as early as the 50s or even earlier. Once degenerative alterations have occurred, there are usually very few therapeutic options to effectively regain brain functionality due to their irreversibility. This is why early preventive interventions are especially important to delay the onset of symptoms, prevent mental decline and preserve brain functionality.
Gary J. Kennedy, M.D., director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in NYC, has the expert opinion that our function of brain that affects processing time and problem solving ability slows down as our age increases. This happens due to ragged neuronal insulation when the myelin sheath surrounding the axons gets thin with the increasing age. These affects of the aging brain can be countered with continuous mental exercise. Development of new brain cells can be catalyzed through physical exercises. Additionally, moderate exercise increases the oxygen supply to the brain which protects the brain against the effects of aging.
Avoiding mental decline can now be seen as a lifestyle choice and, given the research, should be started well before one's fourth decade to ensure a pathway towards becoming a centenarian with clear focus.
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