It’s Healthy Aging Month!

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Every September is Healthy Aging Month, and there is no better time than the present to start living a healthier life for your brain. Whether you are 80 or 18, it’s never too late or too early to follow some basic principles.

The Dana Foundation’s Successful Aging & Your Brain booklet discusses what older adults can do to keep their brains sharp as they age. Although it is true that cognitive decline, dementia, and other brain diseases and disorders become more common with age, it is also true that our brain improves in many ways as we grow older. With time, we accumulate more knowledge and apply past lessons in judging present challenges and opportunities—in other words, we become wiser. Our brains also maintain their ability to change in response to experiences, known as plasticity, well into old age.  Continue reading

Tips to Get Moving for National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

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Whether you’re already physically active or looking to get started, today is a great day to get moving! It’s the 25th anniversary of Senior Health & Fitness Day, the nation’s largest annual health promotion event for older adults. More than 1,000 local organizations in all 50 states are hosting activities such as fitness walks, low-impact exercises, health screenings, health information workshops, and more.

While exercise has benefits for the whole body, it is especially important for your brain as you age. Experts from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), a collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts who focus on brain heath and aging, agreed in a report that people who exercise “show beneficial changes in brain structure and function” and “have lower risk of cognitive decline.” Physical activity can make positive changes in our brains that will keep us sharp into old age.

The experts at GCBH also outlined the following guidelines for anyone looking to improve their level of physical activity and keep it enjoyable:

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National Parkinson’s Awareness Month Interview with Robert Edwards, M.D.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects roughly one in 100 people over the age of 60. With no biomarker or objective test to make a definitive diagnosis, PD has kept researchers searching for clues on how to treat, and hopefully prevent, the disease.

April is National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, and so we sat down with Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Robert Edwards, M.D., who specializes in the treatment of PD at the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic. Edwards is a professor of neurology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. His lab has received international recognition for demonstrating that vesicular monoamine transport protects against MPTP toxicity, suggesting an important mechanism that may also protect against Parkinson’s.

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Robert Edwards, M.D.

Regular exercise is proven to have positive effects on gait speed, strength, balance, and overall quality of life for people with PD. Though studies are still limited, dance therapy is said to greatly improve quality of life for this group, even more so than typical exercise. Can you talk a little bit about this?

RE: I am not an expert in this area, but exercise has clear short-term effects on function and for those more severely affected, on quality of life—those earlier in the disease are doing pretty well in any case. Presumably, exercise helps by improving the function of the basal ganglia circuitry that controls movement, much as it would in normal individuals. Dance therapy focuses on balance and other aspects of motor function different from standard exercises, so might be expected to add something new. Continue reading

Successful Aging & Your Brain at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

After an inaugural, successful, and sold-out program last September, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan partnered with the Dana Foundation once again to present Successful Aging & Your Brain (SA&YB) Tuesday evening—this time in celebration of Brain Awareness Week!

Speaker Matthew Fink, M.D., Neurologist-in-Chief at New York-Presbysterian and chairman, neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine, has participated as a panelist for SA&YB programs multiple times and has also frequently spoken at Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. He discussed brain function, changes in the brain as we age, memory, brain diseases and disorders, and maximizing brain function and health.

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New Year’s Resolution: Successful Aging & Your Brain

The beginning of a new year usually starts with resolutions–to eat healthier, to exercise more, or to improve quality of life in some way. Keeping your brain healthy, understanding how the brain works, and learning how to maximize brain function should be added to that list! Good mental health or “cognitive fitness” are as important to a good overall quality of life as physical health– in fact, the two are related!

You can get started on your brain-y new year’s resolution by reading our Successful Aging & Your Brain booklet, which explains how people of all ages can improve their brain fitness (pages 18 to 32) while also focusing on how the brain (specifically memory) works and what types of brain diseases and disorders can affect adults later in life. The ways to keep your brain healthy can be broken down into four steps–or factors–of successful aging that have been scientifically proven to make a difference.

Our short Successful Aging & Your Brain video outlines the four factors that contribute to a brain-healthy lifestyle.

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