How to Preserve Brain Function Despite Aging

There are ways of slowing or reversing losses in cognitive function. The most effective discovered so far is physical exercise, which protects the brain by protecting the body’s cardiovascular health. Mental exercise, often called brain training, is widely promoted, but it boosts only the particular skill that is practised – its narrow impact mirroring that of educational interventions at other ages. Various drugs are being investigated for their value in staving off normal cognitive decline, but for now preventive maintenance is still the best bet – avoid smoking, drinking to excess, head injuries and the like.

Don’t forget regular exercise. Also, I think the Mediterranean diet helps preserve brain function, but it’s difficult to prove.

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

That quotes from an Instant Expert paper on intelligence. It’s full of interesting facts such as the typical difference in IQ between strangers is 17 points. It answers the question whether an enriched school or home environment can increase intelligence.

The article mentions overload of patients’ brains when medical care is too complicated:

Given the complexity of self-care regimes, it is hardly surprising that some people make dangerous errors or fail to comply. The effective management of diabetes, for example, requires a person to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range, which means coordinating diet, exercise and medication throughout the day, which in turn requires planning for contingencies, recognising when blood sugar is veering too high or low, knowing how to regain control and conceptualising the imperceptible but cumulative damage caused by failing to maintain control. There is no set recipe for people with diabetes to follow – their bodies and circumstances differ. Moreover, they get little training, virtually no supervision and no days off. Effectively managing your diabetes is a cognitively complex job and poor performance has serious consequences, including emergency room visits, lost limbs or eyesight, and even death. The lower the diabetic person’s IQ, the greater the risks.

You’ll also learn about the Flynn effect and possible explanations for it:

Over the past century, each successive generation has answered more IQ test items correctly than the last, the rise being equivalent to around 3 IQ points per decade in developed nations. This is dubbed the “Flynn effect” after the political scientist James Flynn, who most thoroughly documented it. Are humans getting smarter, and if so, why? 

I’m more inclined to think Idiocracy describes our future.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t James Fulford

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