Source: USA Today
If you want to stay mentally sharp as you age, experts have three pieces of advice: Get more exercise, control your risks for cardiovascular disease and work with your doctor to head off medical conditions and drug side effects that might impair your thinking.
While you might also benefit from some other strategies — including staying socially active, getting enough sleep and engaging in stimulating activities from reading to music-making to formal brain-training games — the evidence for those approaches is not as strong. And there's no good evidence that any drug or supplement will help.
That's the gist of the advice in a new, authoritative report on "cognitive aging," the changes in memory, thinking speed, decision-making, problem-solving and learning that most people notice as they age. The report, released Tuesday by an expert panel appointed by the non-profit Institute of Medicine, focuses on the sorts of changes that do not signal dementia but can nonetheless interfere with daily life.
"The brain ages in all of us, but there's wide variability in the way the brain ages," says committee chair Dan Blazer, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at
The best-studied ways to slow the decline, according to the report:
If you do try a brain-training computer program or game, the report says, you should know that the skills you hone on those programs might not transfer to real life activities. That is, even if you master a memory game, you still might forget your grocery list.
The report calls for government agencies, consumer groups and others to do more to regulate and offer reliable information on products that make memory-enhancement and other claims.
In a recent survey by AARP, 93% of respondents said brain health was very or extremely important, but few said they knew how to protect it.
The new report, co-sponsored by the advocacy group, "empowers consumers to take control of their health," AARP chief policy officer
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