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Ways for seniors to improve cognitive function

April 3, 2014

Cognitive function may be improved with memory care, healthy dieting and regular brain exercise. Maintaining a healthy brain is crucial for seniors, as the quality of cognitive function determines how older adults perform, interact with their peers and carry out daily activities. 

Keeping the heart healthy makes the brain happy
New research published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation found that people who had low blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in their younger years were less likely to have neural decline later in life. The 25-year study followed more than 3,000 people and discovered that those with higher levels reported lower scores on cognitive tests in their 40s and 50s. Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California-San Francisco and lead author of the study, explained that the way young adults treat their bodies is crucial to their health as they get older.

"It's amazing that as a young adult, mildly elevated cardiovascular risks seem to matter for your brain health later in life," Yaffe said in a press release. "We're not talking about old age issues, but lifelong issues."

According to the source, this is the first study to discover how heart health affects cognition in these age ranges. Participants conducted a series of tests that examined their mental flexibility, memory and speed of thinking. Yaffe added that these findings may be helpful for Alzheimer's researchers, as they could shed light on ways in which cognition is tied to the body's overall functions.

Sleep is an important factor for senior men
In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for seniors by keeping the heart functional, another group of researchers discovered that sleep may play a key role in improving brainpower in older males. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published findings that illustrated a connection between quality of sleep and senior cognition.

Scientists found that older men who experienced broken sleeping patterns were 40 to 50 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline. Terri Blackwell, the senior statistician at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute and lead author of the study, explained in a press release that the results were integral for seniors looking for ways to keep their brains in the healthiest condition possible.

"It was the quality of sleep that predicted future cognitive decline in this study, not quantity," Blackwell said. "With the rate of cognitive impairment increasing and the high prevalence of sleep problems in the elderly, it is important to determine prospective associations with sleep and cognitive decline."