Are you seeking steps to keep your brain healthy in old age?
There are no proven ways to stave off mental decline or dementia, but a new report says there are hints that exercise, controlling blood pressure and some forms of brain training might offer help.
Without proof, the government should not begin a public health campaign pushing strategies for aging brain health, the U.S.-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report released Thursday.
‘Since generally keeping intellectually active appears to be good for you, do that.’
– Alan Leshner, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
But the public should be told the evidence is “encouraging,” though inconclusive, the report said. That way, people can use the information in deciding whether to invest time and money on different interventions.
The three highlighted strategies “do no harm,” said neuroscientist Alan Leshner, chairman of the National Academies committee. “At least two of them are really good for you” even if the brain link doesn’t pan out, he said.
More study required
Scientists know that risky changes in the brain begin decades before symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias become apparent, suggesting there’s a window when people might bolster their cognitive health. But the report said people face a “bewildering” array of products and strategies promoted for brain health despite little, if any, rigorous science to back them up.
The National Institute on Aging asked the prestigious National Academies to review the field. The committee said three interventions should be more closely studied to prove if they really can help:
- Getting high blood pressure under control, especially in middle age. People with hypertension need treatment anyway to prevent heart disease and strokes.
- Increased physical activity. Similar to the blood pressure advice, what’s good for the heart has long been deemed good for the brain.