How do I slow my aging brain?

Dr. Mark Magdanz

Delaying the effects of aging has become one very researched topic as the Boomer Generation hits retirement. The process of aging is inevitable, but we may delay the rapidity and severity of life’s changes. Some things that if done delay brain function decline as one ages are well established: 1) Stay socially active, read and mental activities; 2) Exercise; 3) Minimize/effectively deal with stress events (much luck); 4) Maintain a healthy diet.

A positive note: promising research on effects of music is now out. When hearing songs from the past, the result can be amazing. Songs take you to different decades for quick vacations. Research shows memory is strongly stimulated by music and demonstrates improvement in cognitively declining patients. Music reduces stress, aids relaxation and ameliorates depression. Research by Koelsch et al, stated, “Brain scans show the subject’s brain lighting up like a Christmas tree” when exposed to musical harmony. As we head into spring your stereo/iPod should be turned on too!

Many of us think our brains peak late teens or early 20s. Yippee, not so! Neuroplasticity, the brain’s natural ability to form new connections in order to compensate for injury or changes in one’s environment, is becoming well researched. Neuroplasticity allows formation and repair, even with our “older” brains. Music has known power over emotions and cognition. Now the great news for music lovers is neuroscientists are proving the effects of music on the brain activity and have seen exciting things. At an American Music Therapy Conference, Dr. A. Patel said that music involves structure, repetition, emotion and attention, which he calls a “recipe for brain plasticity.” In simple terms, if you want to create a more dynamic and vibrantly functioning brain, add music to your activities whenever possible. By the way, previously touted games/puzzles are losing favor, and companies selling computer learning are suffering due to lack of results.

So the point is finding activities that provide you with positive physical and mental benefits to improve your life. Efficient activity management will give the biggest bang for your buck in terms of time spent. Many residents favor line dancing. Why? It provides social interaction, cardio and physical exercise, memorization, musical exposure, balance and coordination. Enjoy your puzzles/games but don’t expect them to improve your brain function. To get that find an exercise that you can enjoy year round, and you’ll improve your brain and body at the same time. No matter how you spend your years, enjoy with a song!

Available year round, professionally taught Line Dance Lessons with Rebecca are in SaddleBrooke and SaddleBrooke Ranch. Three different skill levels (from beginners to the most difficult in the area) are offered nine times per week. Classes or practices are every day but Friday and Sunday. For more information write [email protected] or call 818-2656. Rebecca has taught dancing exclusively and professionally in our SaddleBrooke communities  since 2006.