3 Simple Habits That Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline

You might think that the impact of aging on the brain is something you can’t do much about. After all, isn’t it an inevitability? To an extent, as we may not be able to rewind the clock and change our levels of higher education or intelligence (both factors that delay the onset of symptoms of aging).

But adopting specific lifestyle behaviors–whether you’re in your thirties or late forties–can have a tangible effect on how well you age. Even in your fifties and beyond, activities like learning a new language or musical instrument, taking part in aerobic exercise, and developing meaningful social relationships can do wonders for your brain. There’s no question that when we compromise on looking after ourselves, our aging minds pick up the tab.

The Aging Process and Cognitive Decline

Over time, there is a build-up of toxins such as tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that correlate to the aging process and associated cognitive decline. Although this is a natural part of growing older, many factors can exacerbate it. Stress, neurotoxins such as alcohol and lack of (quality and quantity) sleep can speed up the process.

Neuroplasticity–the function that allows the brain to change and develop in our lifetime–has three mechanisms: synaptic connection, myelination, and neurogenesis. The key to resilient aging is improving neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. Neurogenesis happens far more in babies and children than adults.

A 2018 study by researchers at Columbia University shows that in adults, this type of neuroplastic activity occurs in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that lays down memories. This makes sense as we respond to and store new experiences every day, and cement them during sleep. The more we can experience new things, activities, people, places, and emotions, the more likely we are to encourage neurogenesis.

With all this in mind, we can come up with a three-point plan to encourage “resilient aging” by activating neurogenesis in the brain:

1. Get your heart rate up

Aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking has a potentially massive impact on neurogenesis. A 2016 rat study found that endurance exercise was most effective in increasing neurogenesis. It wins out over HIIT sessions and resistance training, although doing a variety of exercise also has its benefits.

Aim to do aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week, and choose the gym, the park, or natural landscape over busy roads to avoid compromising brain-derived neurotrophic factor production (BDNF), a growth factor that encourages neurogenesis that aerobic exercise can boost. However, exercising in polluted areas decreases production.

If exercising alone isn’t your thing, consider taking up a team sport or one with a social element like table tennis. Exposure to social interaction can also increase the neurogenesis, and in many instances, doing so lets you practice your hand-eye coordination, which research has suggested leads to structural changes in the brain that may relate to a range of cognitive benefit. This combination of coordination and socializing has been shown to increase brain thickness in the parts of the cortex related to social/emotional welfare, which is crucial as we age.

2. Change your eating patterns

Evidence shows that calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and time-restricted eating encourage neurogenesis in humans. In rodent studies, intermittent fasting has been found to improve cognitive function and brain structure, and reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Reducing refined sugar will help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells, too, and we know that increased oxidative damage has been linked with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-four hour water-only fasts have also been proven to increase longevity and encourage neurogenesis.

Try any of the following, after checking with your doctor:

  • 24-hour water-only fast once a month
  •  Reducing your calorie intake by 50%-60% on two non-consecutive days of the week for two to three months or on an ongoing basis
  • Reducing calories by 20% every day for two weeks. You can do this three to four times a year
  • Eating only between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. as a general rule

3. Prioritize sleep

Sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system, which flushes out the build-up of age-related toxins in the brain (the tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques mentioned above). When people are sleep-deprived, we see evidence of memory deficits, and if you miss a whole night of sleep, research proves that it impacts IQ. Aim for seven to nine hours, and nap if it suits you. Our need to sleep decreases as we age.

Of course, there are individual exceptions, but having consistent sleep times and making sure you’re getting sufficient quality and length of sleep supports brain resilience over time. So how do you know if you’re getting enough? If you naturally wake up at the same time on weekends that you have to during the week, you probably are.

If you need to lie-in or take long naps, you’re probably not. Try practicing mindfulness or yoga nidra before bed at night, a guided breath-based meditation that has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality. There are plenty of recordings online if you want to experience it.

Pick any of the above that work for you and build it up until it becomes a habit, then move onto the next one and so on. You might find that by the end of the year, you’ll feel even healthier, more energized, and motivated than you do now, even as you turn another year older.

By: Fast Company / Tara Swart

Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, author, and medical doctor. Follow her on Twitter at @TaraSwart.

Source: Open-Your-Mind-Change

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Critics:

Cognitive deficit is an inclusive term to describe any characteristic that acts as a barrier to the cognition process.

The term may describe

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a neurocognitive disorder which involves cognitive impairments beyond those expected based on an individual’s age and education but which are not significant enough to interfere with instrumental activities of daily living. MCI may occur as a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. It includes both memory and non-memory impairments.Mild cognitive impairment has been relisted as mild neurocognitive disorder in DSM-5, and in ICD-11.

The cause of the disorder remains unclear, as well as its prevention and treatment. MCI can present with a variety of symptoms, but is divided generally into two types.

Amnestic MCI (aMCI) is mild cognitive impairment with memory loss as the predominant symptom; aMCI is frequently seen as a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that these individuals tend to progress to probable Alzheimer’s disease at a rate of approximately 10% to 15% per year.[needs update]It is possible that being diagnosed with cognitive decline may serve as an indicator of aMCI.

Nonamnestic MCI (naMCI) is mild cognitive impairment in which impairments in domains other than memory (for example, language, visuospatial, executive) are more prominent. It may be further divided as nonamnestic single- or multiple-domain MCI, and these individuals are believed to be more likely to convert to other dementias (for example, dementia with Lewy bodies).

See also

Why Fargo North Dakota Might Be A Better Retirement Destination Than Florida’s Sunshine

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The grisly Oscar-nominated comedy Fargo opens with a blinding white landscape, the fog of a blizzard obscuring flat plains blanketed with snow as far as the eye can see. Although none of the movie was actually filmed in Fargo, North Dakota and very little of it is set there, the winter climate it presents is appropriate. It looks like just about the last place you’d want to live.

“It is aesthetically not the prettiest place on earth,” says Erik Hatch, the owner of Hatch Realty and a lifelong Fargo resident. “Topography-wise, it was not given the gift of mountainous hills and rolling landscapes. Weather-wise, it’s just damn cold… But I’m going to say what everybody says about their community, and yet I know that I’m right. The best people on earth live in Fargo.”

Talk to anybody from Fargo, a city that embraces the slogan “North of Normal,” and it might seem like they have some form of Stockholm syndrome rattling off all the endearing qualities of their hometown. But the data supports them. Fargo is the only city that has been on Forbes’ Best Places to Retire list 10 years in a row, accounting for metrics like cost of living, doctors per capita and walkability.

Its median home price of $228,000 is 20% below the national median, and Fargo real estate is a safe investment with the population growing at a steady rate of about 4 percent per year, nearing 125,000 at last count.

People have gravitated to Fargo for jobs in a number of industries: healthcare, technology, education and agriculture. The $500 million Sanford Medical Center just opened in 2017 as the largest hospital in North Dakota, complete with a Level 1 trauma center, cancer research and cardiovascular care to give aging adults peace of mind. Microsoft’s Fargo campus employs 1,600, and North Dakota State University enrolls more than 13,000 students.

“Areas where I used to go out and hunt in the morning, doves and things like that—now they’re neighborhoods,” says Fargo mayor Tim Mahoney, who has lived in the city for four decades and works as a general and vascular surgeon.

The Milken Institute ranks Fargo as the 14th-best small metro area for successful aging out of the 281 it evaluated, citing its stable economy, quality healthcare and cultural amenities and public libraries in town. NDSU regularly brings musical groups to its campus to perform, and its 1,000-seat Festival Concert Hall hosts Fargo’s symphony orchestra and opera.

Brian Arett, director of Valley Senior Services, which supports retirees living independently in the region, says Fargo serves as a magnet for people in small surrounding towns who don’t have easy access to hospitals or these sorts of daily activities as they age. His organization offers benefits like Meals on Wheels delivery or cheap rides to and from appointments or events, and Fargo’s public bus system helps them get around town as well.

“I know it’s the butt of some jokes in our country, but for this area, Fargo is a fairly robust metro community,” Arett says. “In rural North Dakota for instance, or northwestern Minnesota, which is fairly rural, there aren’t a lot of communities as close as Fargo that have that variety of options for older people.”

That’s the elevator pitch for what makes Fargo an enticing place to retire, and residents are quick to offer counterarguments to any drawbacks.

Winters are bitterly cold, with temperatures dipping below zero on an average January night, but Fargo’s airport offers nonstop flights to Phoenix for snowbirds in search of a respite. The airport also makes it convenient for retired people to visit their children and grandchildren. The beach may be upwards of 1,000 miles away in either direction, but Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, less than an hour to the east, makes for a fine summer weekend getaway. It’s more of a hike to get to major professional sports games in Minneapolis, but NDSU has its own national champion football team that frequently brings ESPN’s College Gameday show to Fargo on fall Saturdays.


A Chilly Bargain

Fargo is cheaper than typical retirement hotspots and stacks up favorably in the essentials.


The diverse economy has attracted a slightly more diverse group of young people to Fargo—though it’s still predominantly white, Mahoney says its minority representation has grown from 7% when he started on the city council in 2005 to 15% today.

“I think my citizens sell it better than I sell it,” Mahoney says. “You’ll find a pretty friendly contrast to New York.”

The friendly Midwestern vibe also manifests in a low crime rate, with fewer homicides reported in all of 2019 (five) than were crammed into 90 minutes of the 1996 movie that bears the city’s name (seven).

And yes, it comes with the territory that anybody from Fargo knows they’re likely to be asked by outsiders about the film, complete with its lampoonish accents and enthusiastic “you betcha’s.”

“When it first came out, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is insulting,’” says Hatch, who himself speaks with a barely detectable Midwestern cadence. “There was an uproar.”

The city has come around in the quarter century since. Now, tourists can see the infamous wood chipper prop used as a fictional murder accessory on display in Fargo’s visitors center. If they visit in the colder months, they’ll find people occupying themselves at times like they did in the movie: lamenting the weather with neighbors, sipping coffee in diners and watching hockey on TV. What they won’t find is Siberian desolation.

“Back in college, I camped outside of Best Buy on Thanksgiving to go to Black Friday with literally hundreds of other people, just to get a cheaper TV. So people still do the things that happen in other parts of the country. That still happens here,” says Hatch, an NDSU alum. “It simply is approached with more clothes on.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m an assistant editor at Forbes covering money & markets. I graduated from Duke University, where I majored in math but spent more time following its basketball team around the country as the sports editor and a beat reporter for our student newspaper, The Chronicle.

Source: Forbes

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50 Ways To Live On Your Own Terms – Benjamin Hardy – Pocket

Although people think they perform better on caffeine, the truth is, they really don’t. Actually, we’ve become so dependent on caffeine that we use it to simply get back to our status-quo. When we’re off it, we under perform and become incapable.

Source: 50 Ways To Live On Your Own Terms – Benjamin Hardy – Pocket

The Scientific Argument For Waking Up Early – Leon Biss

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If you want to become elite at what you do, you need to consistently get better. High performance is all about putting in more and “reps.” Doing the same workout every day won’t make you stronger or faster. Just showing up to work every day and doing your job won’t make you better at your job. It’s been shown that most doctors become worse at their job over their career. They are at their height when they come out of medical school and slowly get worse over time…….

Read more: https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-scientific-argument-for-waking-up-early-b3d93c4d74cd

 

 

 

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How to Stop Wasting Your Life Watching TV & Do Something Worthwhile With Your Downtime – Elizabeth Grace Saunders

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You get home from work, eat dinner, clean up, flop on the couch, and doze off watching TV or mess with your phone. Then you repeat the same routine Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Before you know it, you’ve hit the weekend, and it felt like all you did all week was work. In reality, you had an hour or two to do whatever you wanted each night. But because you didn’t consciously invest that time in meaningful or satisfying activities, every day felt like a grind……

Read more: https://www.fastcompany.com/90244574/how-to-stop-wasting-your-life-watching-tv-do-something-worthwhile-with-your-downtime

 

 

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Why Nordic Countries Might Not Be As Happy As You Think

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Nordic countries like Finland and Norway may regularly come out on top of world happiness indexes for wellbeing year-on-year – but new research shows the happiness is far from universal.

A report authored by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen aims to provide a more nuanced picture of life in the Nordic nations – suggesting their reputations as utopias for happiness are masking significant problems for some parts of the population, especially young people.

The researchers behind In the Shadow of Happiness looked at data collected across five years between 2012-2016 to try and build a better picture of the so-called “happiness superpowers”.

It asked people to mark their satisfaction with life out of 10 – with people above a seven categorizedm as thriving, fives and sixes as struggling and anyone scoring below a four deemed to be suffering.

A stock model laughing on the Trolltunga, in Norway

It found that in total 12.3% of people living in the Nordic region said they were struggling or suffering, with 13.5% of young people ranking themselves as such.

It found general health and mental health were both closely associated with happiness ratings – with unemployment, income and sociability also playing a role.

Mental Health As a Factor

Researchers found mental health to be one of the most significant barriers to subjective well-being.

Their data found these problems being reported by young people in particular.

“More and more young people are getting lonely and stressed and having mental disorders,” one of the report’s authors, Michael Birkjaer, told the Guardian newspaper.

“We are seeing that this epidemic of mental illness and loneliness is reaching the shores of the Nordic countries.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The report said young women reported the highest levels of unhappiness in some areas

In Denmark, 18.3% of people aged 16 to 24 said they suffered from poor mental health – with the number rising to 23.8% for women in that age bracket.

Norway saw a 40% increase over the five-year-period of young people seeking help for mental health difficulties.

The report notes that in Finland, which ranked as the happiest world country in 2018, suicide was responsible for a third of all deaths among the age bracket.

It found that young women consistently reported feeling depressed more than young men did.

What Other Patterns Did it Find?

The authors say that in Nordic countries high incomes protected people against feeling they were suffering or struggling.

They also found that people were more than three times more likely to report a low score if they were unemployed, especially men, who were also more likely to report mental health problems when unemployed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nordic countries regularly appear in the top five happiest places, according to the survey, with Finland coming top this year
People enjoy a sunny day on the Esplanade in Helsinki, Finland, in May 2017

It said that research shows lack of social contact was a greater problem among Nordic men than women.

Other conclusions included:

  • Ethnic minorities living in Nordic countries were less happy
  • Very religious people were more likely to be happier
  • No difference was found between people living in the country and those in cities

Is It Really That Bad Then?

While the figures may seem stark, it is in isolation in some of the happiest – overall – countries on earth.

Although the report particularly focuses on Nordic countries, it does compare some of the data to that recorded elsewhere.

So while 3.9% of people in the Nordic region may report scores so low they are classed as “suffering” – that level is as high as 26.9% in Russia and 17% in France.

So the picture in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden does remain relatively rosy – just not as perfect as some may have painted.

 

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