Alzheimer’s disease, dementia risk may be reduced in elderly who take college courses: Study

By: Devon Andre | Brain Function | Friday, November 11, 2016 - 11:30 AM

Alzheimer’s diseaseAlzheimer’s disease and dementia risk may be reduced in elderly who take college courses, according to research. The Australian study looked at 359 participants who partook in a series of cognitive tests prior to completing a full year of college courses – either part-time or full-time. The participants were reassessed every year for three years.

Over 90 percent of the participants showed significant improvements in their cognitive capacity, compared to only 56 percent in the control group who did not attend college courses.

Lead researcher Megan Lenehan explained, “The study findings are exciting because they demonstrate that it’s never too late to take action to maximize the cognitive capacity of your brain. We plan to follow these participants as they age to see if college studies could help delay the onset or reduce the debilitating effects of dementia.”

Courses taken by the participants included history, psychology, philosophy, and fine arts, and were completed either in a class setting or online. The researchers hypothesized that in-class courses offer greater benefits because of opportunities for greater social interaction which can also have positive effects on cognition, but no such differences were found between the two learning styles.

Lenehan added, “It is possible that any mentally stimulating activity later in life may also enhance cognitive capacity, such as other adult-education classes or programs to increase social interaction.”

The participants were volunteers, so they probably had a greater interest in continuing education. As of now, the long-term benefits are unknown, but researchers plan on following up with the participants to see if college courses in senior years could have lasting effects on cognition.

Tips to improve cognitive function and longevity

Memory and cognitive function can be boosted through natural means. For example, adhering to a healthy diet and exercising regularly have been shown to improve brain function. Here’s what else you can do to improve your memory naturally:

Sleep: Sleep helps the brain think more creatively and improves the memory. All that we learned throughout the day becomes categorized while we are asleep so that we can recall it later on. If you don’t sleep well, your recalling ability is reduced. Ensure you are sleeping well each night or else you could become quite forgetful.

Challenge yourself: Just because you’re older doesn’t mean there aren’t new things to learn. By frequently learning new concepts or testing your memory, you are working to improve it.

Fight infection: Did you know the bacteria H. pylori can damage your brain? It’s true. Even though H. pylori is commonly associated with the digestive system, there is more and more research to suggest it can affect the brain, too.

Although antibiotics can treat H. pylori, the bacteria are becoming resistant to this mode of treatment. To avoid developing antibiotic resistance, try natural antibiotics for less severe cases. Cranberry juice, oregano oil, honey, and garlic are all natural antibiotics. Incorporating these into your diet can help fight off the infection.

Do something new: Switch up your commute, try a new food, or even watch a different TV show. Anything you do that is new will spark new brain cells, helping improve memory.

Reduce stress: Stress is harmful for overall health, and it can deplete energy from the brain. Chronic stress has been linked to gradual memory loss because the constant release of stress hormones decreases your brain’s ability to use glucose for energy. Find helpful ways to reduce stress like exercise or meditation, and if it is too much to handle on your own, consult with a therapist.

Stretch muscles and ride a bike: Studies have shown spending time stretching your muscles and bike riding can improve memory. If you’re not into cycling, exercise in general has been shown to boost brain power as well.

Don’t overeat: Research has shown that overeating can double your risk of memory loss, so really pay attention to your portions.

By incorporating these memory-boosting tricks into your daily life, you can help improve your memory and have a clear mind for years to come.


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Related Reading:

Alzheimer’s disease and eating problems: Tips to encourage and improve nutrition in dementia patients
Loneliness, an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/11/college-dementia.aspx
http://www.belmarrahealth.com/forgetfulness-memory-loss-elderly-causes-treatment/

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