Baby boomers have long been spending millions to save their sagging skin, fix their crow's feet, and
plump their lips. Now, however, boomers are turning to brain boosters to fight
an invisible effect of aging: memory loss.
While body parts sag and wrinkle, the brain actually shrinks with age,
neural connections slow down, and fewer nerve cells are created, experts
The process begins as early as your 30s and affects tens of millions of
Americans, leaving them not only frustrated but also causing a loss of
self-confidence, social impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life that can
sometimes lead to self-neglect and serious health issues.
To thwart age-related memory loss, many people have turned to brain
exercises and brain games such as chess, crossword puzzles, reading aloud,
brushing teeth, and computer games like MindFit and Posit Science that promise
mental sharpness if you practice enough.
But do those activities really work?
To find out, WebMD turned to several experts who study the effect of aging
on the brain. They say there are steps we can take to keep our brains younger.
Here's what you can do:
Exercising is one of the most
frequently cited activities to improve age-related memory.
"The one that has the most robust findings is physical exercise," says Molly
Wagster, PhD, chief of the behavioral and systems neuroscience branch division
of the National Institute on Aging.
And it helps if the exercise is aerobic, Wagster says. Studies have shown
that older people who exercise -- and we're talking fairly easy exercise of
moderate walking a few times a week -- outperformed couch
potatoes after six months.
Experts do not fully understand why exercise helps boost brainpower, but it
could be for several reasons. First, exercise diminishes stress, a key drain of brain energy, and it also helps
overall health. It also helps people sleep
better, which improves memory and keeps the blood flowing to all parts of your
"In general, what's good for the heart is good for the brain," says Gary
Small, MD, director of the UCLA Center for Aging and author of iBrain,
which examines, among other things the effect of the Internet on our
Brain Booster No. 2: Eating a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
Experts stress that people must pay attention to their diets
and eat a variety of fruits
and vegetables, five to seven servings daily ranging from leafy greens to
blueberries to tomatoes to sweet potatoes. While there is no one "brain food,"
antioxidants -- which are often found in fruits and vegetables -- help to curb
free-radical damage to cells.
"Our brain kind of gets rusty with age," explains Small.
Also, experts say there's no magic brain vitamin or supplement that will
protect against memory loss. P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD, chief of biological
psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and author of The Alzheimer's
Action Plan, says that B vitamins may help, as could the spice turmeric,
but that studies are inconclusive.