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Resolve to Work Out Your Brain in the New Year

Alliance for Aging Research offers 10 steps to brain fitness

Washington, D.C. – As we approach a new year, many people are making resolutions to take steps to improve their health. Based on a growing body of research that shows that you can improve your brain health, the Alliance for Aging Research encourages people to resolve to make brain health as important as physical fitness.

“There is a lot we can do to keep our brains healthy and potentially prevent or lessen the cognitive decline that often comes with aging,” said Daniel Perry, executive director of the non-profit Alliance for Aging Research. “We are encouraging people to take steps to improve brain health as part of their overall fitness regimen for the New Year.”

Screening of your brain health is important in the same way as a regular check of your cholesterol level. Regular screening of your everyday thinking skills allows you to track changes in your brain health over time. Screening is also the first step to differentiating, for example, between memory decline that is a normal part of aging and memory loss that may be part of a medical condition, and which may warrant further consultation. The Alliance for Aging Research and the Brain Resource Company have teamed up to bring information and resources on brain health to the public and to provide the WebNeuro test, a cognitive assessment that can be taken on personal computers—free to the first one million users (through May 14, 2007).

To learn more about how to make a difference in your brain health and make your fitness routine both physical and mental, follow the 10 steps below:

#1 Nourish Your Noggin: Eat a Brain Healthy Diet
Research shows that well-balanced diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fish), protein, antioxidants (such as folic acid), fruits and vegetables, and vitamin B; that are low in trans fats; and which have an appropriate level of carbohydrates —will help keep our brains healthy. A diet that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as maintains a healthy weight, is also good for our brains.

#2 Use It or Lose It: Stay Mentally Active
Those who use their minds may be less likely to lose cognitive function than those who don’t. Learning a new skill or language, completing the crossword puzzle, taking educational courses, even learning to dance—all challenge and help maintain the brain.

#3 Work Out for Your Wits: Exercise and Keep Fit
Exercise increases circulation and blood flow to the brain, improves coordination skills, and helps stave off diseases and conditions that make you more prone to dementia, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Those who exercise have been found to be less likely to develop dementia later in life.

#4 Interact with Others: Stay Social
Socializing with friends, volunteering, traveling, and even participating in favorite leisure activities helps to keep our minds active and healthy. Social engagements also reduce stress— which has been proven to destroy brain cells and detrimentally affect overall health.

#5 Rest for Restoration: Get Plenty of Sleep
Scientists are still trying to unlock all of the mysteries of sleep, but they are starting to find that a lack of sleep can negatively impact brain health. Getting sleep is a necessary piece of your brain fitness routine—so if you aren’t getting enough – find some time to catch some ZZZZZs.

#6 Unwind for Your Mind: Manage Your Stress
We have long known that stress can wreak havoc on our bodies—we now know it can do the same to our minds. Many of our lives’ daily stress can have a cumulative effect on our brains—impacting its ability to remember and to learn. So whether you prefer yoga or time with your kids, find ways to eliminate stress from your life.

#7 Guard Your Gray Matter: Protect Your Head
A number of studies have found an association between head injury and dementia. One study of World War II veterans found that those with a history of head trauma were twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, and that the more severe the head injury, the higher the risk. While scientists have a lot to learn about this potential causal link, it is still a good idea to wear protective head gear and seat belts, and guard your gray matter.

#8 Think Overall Health: Control Other Conditions
Researchers have found that those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, hypertension and other conditions, are more likely to develop dementia than their healthier counterparts. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and controlling stress can help to stave off diseases and protect your brain from their deleterious effects. Get regular check-ups and work with your doctor to control your risk factors.

#9 Give Your Brain a Break: Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Smoking, heavy drinking and the use of recreational drugs may cause increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. So, do yourself a favor and kick the nasty habit—your body and your brain will thank you.

#10 Understand Your Risk: Consider Your Genes
While scientists believe there is much to be done to maintain our cognitive vitality, one factor that cannot be controlled is genetics. While you can’t change your genes yet, if your family history puts you at an increased risk of dementia, maintaining your brain health may help slow onset and progression.

Learn more about brain health at www.agingresearch.org and assess your cognitive function free until May 14, 2007, by taking the Brain Resource WebNeuro test.

Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interest of top scientists, public officials, business executives, and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation

The Brain Resource Company (BRC,
www.brainresource.com) has set up the first global standard for Cognitive Brain Testing. BRC’s standardized international database, with thousands of subjects, brings together behavioral and biological measures that are normally examined in isolation (including Personal History, Cognition, Electrical Brain Function, Brain Structure, and Genetics). The methodology is used in over 100 sites, in the USA, Europe, South Africa and Australia. BRC provides evidence-based reports about brain function and cognition to support decisions that promote better clinical management. It is being used commercially in drug development and clinical management and is also being made available to brain scientists for non-commercial scientific research.