On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Want a younger brain? Eat your greens, take the stairs and treat yourself to chocolate

Today we have a post from our guest blogger Olga Jameson, who is a registered dietitian for the intestinal rehabilitation and abdominal transplant program at the INTEGRIS Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute.
Yes, that's my advice to help achieve a younger brain! Actually, it's a bit more complicated, but the science behind my headline claim is pretty simple. There are easy steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and your memory strong. First, did you know the latest scientific research has shown the foods you choose can either boost your memory or actually increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for around 60-80 percent of all cases. Around 5.3 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's. Most sufferers (around 5.1 million) are aged 65 and older. The development of Alzheimer's is related to the death of brain cells, or neurons, which can lead to the memory loss and behavioral changes associated with the disease. It is believed that brain cell death in Alzheimer's is related to a combination of inflammatory brain changes, tangles that develop inside neurons, and the development of plaques between brain cells. Researchers believe these plaques and tangles impair communication between nerve cells, interfering with the processes that aid brain cell survival. Interestingly, researchers identified inflammatory changes in the brains of people at increased risk for Alzheimer's 20 years before the  onset of symptoms.

The foods you eat can affect your memory

memory boost image When you consume too little of foods from the first category and too much from the second you can stimulate the production of toxins in the body. Those toxins can lead to inflammation and the build-up of plaques in the brain. As a result, cognitive function can be impaired.

Exercise can help, too

The latest research reveals just how much impact exercise can have on brain health as we age. In a study just published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers found that older adults who reported either light or no exercise experienced a cognitive decline equal to 10 more years of aging when compared to people who were moderate to intense exercisers. The study found that people who exercise moderately or heavily had a reduced risk of memory loss and function. Researchers say seniors should try to move around as much as they can, and even moderate activity can have a benefit to your brain.

Simply taking the stairs can slow brain aging

If you have a hard time getting to the gym, here’s good news for you. New research suggests that climbing the stairs can not only help you stay physically fit but can also improve brain health. Brain age decreases by .58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed, says research published recently in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. The study, conducted by Concordia University in Montreal, showed that the more flights of stairs a person climbs the “younger” his or her brain physically appears. Said Jason Steffener, the lead author on the study, "In comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity." He continued, "This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health."

And don't forget your chocolate

Chocolate is good for your memory and other cognitive skills, according to researchers from the University of Maine and South Australia. The researchers said eating chocolate protects against normal age-related cognitive decline. Those who ate chocolate at least once a week were “positively associated with cognitive performance, across a range of cognitive domains,” according to findings published last month in the journal Appetite. The researchers, who conducted the long-term study of about 1,000 people, could not specifically say why chocolate does a brain good, but suggested the cocoa flavanols, which are potent antioxidant agents, are at play. Remember that darker chocolate is better, and eating chocolate should always be balanced with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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