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Learning New Skills Ensures A Healthy Brain As We Age

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Healthy brain at aging

Learning new skills can keep dementia and Alzheimer's disease at bay. Even though Alzheimer's disease has genetic components, experts say other lifestyle choices are also important to stay mentally sharp, beyond exercise and healthy eating. Social interaction and learning new activities are just as important as eating right and exercising regularly to ensure a healthy brain as we age.


Nola Ochs, who graduated from college in 2007 after twenty years of attendance, is a prime example of how learning new things can keep our brains healthy and help us stay mentally sharp.

According to Marie Pasinski, M.D., a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Health Care Centers, "Most people know that diet and exercise keep the heart healthy, but they are unaware of the positive effects that good lifestyle choices can have on the brain." Dr. Pasinski cares for older patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Our brains need exercise too. "Learning a new skill is one of the best brain workouts there is." Learning exercises target the very area of the brain responsible for Alzheimer's disease and dementia – areas of the brain that age the fastest.

Activities that stimulate mental activity can keep your brain healthy throughout life, but Dr. Pasinski also warns it may be important to make sure those activities do not cause social isolation. "For this reason, I encourage people to pursue a new learning activity that they can share with others. From learning the drums or a foreign language to joining a knitting group – the possibilities are endless." Social interaction, combined with learning new activities, seems to be best to keep us mentally sharp and ensure brain health.

Aside from learning new skills to keep our brains healthy, Dr. Pasinski emphasizes the benefits of exercise. Regular exercise brings nourishing blood flow and oxygen to the billions of neurons found in the brain, also contributing to a healthy brain and mental clarity.

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Dementia affects the way nerve impulses travel through the brain and connect to help us form thoughts. A rich blood supply can ensure that the brain working properly, leading to optimal brain health, in turn keeping us mentally sharp.

Dr, Pasinski encourages her patients to dance, in addition to other healthy lifestyle choices. Dancing is both socially interactive, and a great way to create new brain cells from exercise. We can make new brain cells throughout life.

As we reach senior citizen status, it may be important to take some tips from all we have learned about brain health.

Dance, learn to fly a kite, share a game of chess with another, or learn how to cook nutritious and healthy gourmet meals. Remember, your brain need to workout regularly. Make good dietary choices, and incorporate regular sessions of exercise into your life for optimal brain health.

Continue to learn new skills that you can share with others to keep your mind sharp, and your brain healthy, at any age.

Mass General News
Feb 20,2009