Protect your brain as you age

You can start guarding against Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders in midlife, say researchers.

Research suggests that a few strategies can help guard against Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Believe you have control. Findings from a large national study of people in midlife suggest that those who believe they have greater control over their physical and cognitive health have better memory and intellectual functioning as they age.

    When people feel they don’t have control, they’re likely to be anxious and distressed. Those feelings can interfere with performance. They can also keep people from finding alternative strategies to help compensate for mental and physical decline.

  • Give your brain a workout. Research has found a clear connection between advanced education and good cognitive functioning. That’s because people with advanced education are more likely to find ways of working around cognitive problems.

    Didn’t get too far in school? Don’t worry. The research suggests that engaging in mentally stimulating activities like reading, going to classes or playing musical instruments can improve your cognitive functioning.

  • Exercise your body. Research in animals has found that exercise prompts new neural connections.

    A 2007 study in humans found that exercise stimulates neural connections in a part of the brain responsible for age-related memory decline.