Why are we putting together all these different things into a title?
It might look strange but scientists have been linking all of them to the same (very positive) thing: delay in cognitive decline.
Let’s see … what does this mean? It means people will keep the performance of their brain cells at an optimum level, for longer and later in life, if only they eat berries, use their computers more, exercise, love and feel loved. A mixture of all these ingredients is what you need to master the ‘Art of Ageing’.
No need to be confused: you do not have to go to the gym or out walking whilst “googling” at the same time you exercise and eat (with the hand you might still have free) whichever berries you prefer.
Studies from the Harvard Medical School in Boston defend that “increasing berry intake appears to slow memory decline by up to 2.5 years”. Well, fine, let’s eat berries, but there is an important small detail: they continue by adding that “by this, we mean that women eating the most berries vs. little to no berries had memory differences equivalent to women 2.5 years apart in age.”
I would not be that sure of the effect of berries in the general population as the study was done only on women!
This study was published in the Annals of Neurology but was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the California Strawberry Commission.
Never mind, eating berries is always nice.
Computers and exercise
A more strongly evidence-based study showed that “older adults who actively use their mind and body may be less apt to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) down the road”, according to a Mayo Clinic Study of Ageing.
Previous studies have shown independent associations of either physical exercise or mentally stimulating activities with MCI but there seems to be an additive effect.
The important thing is that it is necessary to do both things, not only one of them, meaning it is important to exercise body and mind to keep them working the best way possible in harmony and quality.
When you add the benefit of physical exercise and the benefit of computer use, the two things together achieve a joint effect that is more than the expected arithmetic sum.
Physical exercise alone, however, improves blood circulation in the brain and aerobic exercise can also improve cognitive performance.
Challenging, stimulating environmental conditions may dictate what happens to brain cells as time goes by.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is a disorder of the brain that affects the nerve cells involved in thinking abilities.
It is an intermediate state between normal cognitive ageing and dementia. Individuals with mild cognitive impairment can function reasonably well in everyday activities, but may have difficulty remembering details of recent conversations, events and upcoming appointments, or in planning and making decisions.
Most (but not all) patients with mild cognitive impairment develop a progressive decline in their thinking abilities over time. Alzheimer’s disease is usually the underlying cause, but some patients may progress to other types of dementias.
Although much has been learned about the ageing brain, many questions remain and most causes of normal brain ageing are still a mystery.
As a logical consequence of this uncertainty about what causes normal brain decline, we are equally uncertain about what sustains healthy brain function as we grow older.
Increasingly, both physical and mental exercise is viewed as an effective means of slowing the effects of brain ageing.
The Art of Ageing
Living well into old age means not only having the financial means to support it, but also having the physical and mental wellbeing to be able to enjoy it.
Old age is undergoing a major change as today the latter part of life is not about growing older gracefully, it is about ageing successfully, being active, connected and engaged.
It is easy to have a negative view of ageing if your body aches and does not function as it used to, but this negative thinking is what makes it hard to age well, as those who dwell on what they used to be able to do miss out on what they can do today.
If you have health issues but do not think of yourself as sick, your health is unlikely to affect your happiness.
Preserving your mental capacity follows the same “use it or lose it” approach as for physical fitness.
The right diet and proper exercise can give people a new lease of life. Carrying extra weight has been linked to a whole host of conditions from heart disease and diabetes to some cancers and joint deterioration. But the way you look is also relevant … for not feeling so old! An active approach is the key to ageing well.
The relevance of … LOVE
This is a very important factor to master the art of ageing well. Love, in all its possible forms and presentations.
Combining the results of 148 studies that followed more than 300,000 adults from around the world for seven years, it was found that relationships can improve the odds of survival by as much as 50%.
People need to feel love and give love. The Beatles were certainly right when they made the famous statement that “all you need is love”.
Not only that, but love can be the cherry on top of the birthday cake. The thing to keep in mind is to not let the number of candles on the cake dictate what you can do with your life.
Best health wishes,
By Dr Maria Alice
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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve