It is no surprise that the lifespan of humans has increased over the years, and new developments are being made on how to further enhance this longevity. However, a longer lifespan may come with a price in the form of neurodegenerative diseases such as: Alzheimer’s disease.

As we age, Alzheimer’s disease becomes more of a concern for us. The reason: Alzheimer’s disease results in profound cognitive impairment and decline in later stages of adulthood/old age. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease has morphed into a more commonly seen condition today than in the past several years.

The goal for many years has been to preserve the cognitive function found in our younger, healthier brains. There have been previous studies conducted on rats showcasing the extensive positive effects of an enriched environment and brain development. Now, scientists may just have the confirmation they’ve been searching for with humans as well.

New studies have validated previous research linking healthy aging brains with an enriched environment. There is a direct correlation between prolonged brain health and the amount of cognitive exercise the brain gets throughout its lifetime. Research has also found it important that we maintain both social and physical activity throughout our life as those factors also correlate with a reduced chance for neurological disease in old age. These healthy lifestyle factors, also known as forms of enrichment, are proven to be the most effective strategies for healthy living in older age – and a chief preventative measure against aging and disease-related cognitive decline.

Research indicates that it is best to begin keeping the human brain active from early childhood for a higher chance of prolonged neurological health. In fact, our research shows that those that are less active from the ages of 20-60 are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease.

So how exactly do we keep ourselves cognitively active enough to prolong our brain health into old age? There are many ways to keep our brains and bodies active, and the activities chosen depend on your preferences. Some ways to remain cognitively active include:

  • Proactive learning:  teach yourself something new often. Being proactive in your learning styles and studies allows you to remain engaged in your education and keeps your brain active.
  • Cognitively demanding occupations: Being in a work environment that challenges your mind to go above and beyond helps to strengthen your brain’s function.
  • Cognitive enhancing leisure activities: Strengthening your brain doesn’t always mean work or studying. Activities such as brain games (sudoku, Scrabble, etc.) or reading can also help your brain stay active even while you are relaxing.

UofL Physicians – Neurology involves a worldwide interdisciplinary network of collaboration aimed at developing prevention and treatments for neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss. To learn more about our Alzheimer’s Center visit the UofL Physicians – Memory & Alzheimer’s Center website today.  

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Robert P. Friedland, M.D.

Dr. Friedland is a clinical and research neurologist devoted to the study of brain disorders associated with aging. He is a graduate of the City College of New York and received his M.D. degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his neurology residency at the Mount Sinai Hospital and was a fellow in dementia and aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with Robert Katzman. He then worked at the University of California, Davis and in the Research Medicine Group of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley where he served as chief neurologist. He served as deputy clinical director and chief of the Section on Brain Aging and Dementia of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health of Bethesda, M.D. At the CWRU School of Medicine he was a professor of Neurology, Radiology and Psychiatry and chief of the Laboratory of Neurogeriatrics. In 2008 he joined the faculty of the University of Louisville, as the Rudd professor and chair of the Department of Neurology. Dr. Friedland’s work has focused on clinical and biological issues in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Dr. Friedland has authored or coauthored over 350 scientific publications in referred journals and his book "Unaging, The Four Factors That Impact Your Aging" will be published by Cambridge University Press in October 2022. He has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as several foundations, institutes, corporations, and families. He received over $1M annual research funding to support his work from 1985-2013. In November 2021, Dr. Friedland completed a one-year sabbatical leave at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine with the support of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science studying the influence of bacterial amyloid on the development of ALS in transgenic Drosophila.

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