Thoughts on Slowing Cognitive Decline
brain image
As I age I often find myself getting frustrated that I cannot recall facts from my memory bank as I once did.  Medical Science says as we get older our cognitive skills decline.  I would like to think that I have gained that much more knowledge over the years, have more life experiences, and spend more time being creative and not just analytical.  I know the answers on Jeopardy! (alright, the questions because they provide the answers), just give me fifteen seconds to come up with the answer and not the scant five seconds.  Another way of saying it, my brain could use more RAM.
Several factors are responsible for age-related cognitive decline:  free radical damage, insulin resistance, chronic low level inflammation, declining hormone levels, being overweight, poor nutrition, lack of a social network, and high stress.  One can practice or maintain a proper lifestyle  to reduce age-related cognitive decline.  Get away from a diet of simple sugars and saturated fat eat a menu of low fat, complex carbohydrates (vegetables and fruit), fiber, and lean meats.  Along with diet comes calorie restriction as it may improve learning and memory.  There is also strong indication that moderate alcohol and caffeine consumption may protect against cognitive decline.
There is much research being done on the brain.  One group at Rush University Medical School in Chicago led by Dr. Aron S. Buchman has been studying a gene called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF and its role in cognitive decline.    Dr. Buchman and his team found that individuals with a higher level of BDNF had slower rates of cognitive decline.  From the people studied, those that had the highest levels of BDNF, their cognitive decline was as much as 50% lower than those of the lowest concentrations.
Another worthwhile note from this research, with the potential for healthy consequences, is that exercise increases BDNF levels in the blood.  Nothing is conclusive, more research is required to determine if exercise has the potential for slowing or deterring cognitive decline.
So once again, maintain a proper diet, maintain a proper weight, and exercise is a way to stay healthy, physically and