Get your blood flowing to your brain if you want to improve:
MEMORY, DECISON-MAKING AND INFORMATION PROCESSING.
Aged-related declines can interfere with everyday activities.
What do Boomers fear most about getting older? Losing their mind!
Yet for many, it is a process that starts unnoticed in mid-life, and declining ability often gets attributed to “senior moments” or mild to moderate hearing loss.
It’s More Than Learning to Cope
Certainly something like hearing loss is real. It is estimated that one third of Boomers have detectable hearing loss due to the reduced sensory ability of the ears to detect sounds. But that is not the whole story.
Speech in Noisy Places – Many people in the Boomer age-bracket begin to complain that it is hard to hear in noisy places like mixers or bars – environments with completing conversations or background music. This complaint often surfaces long before the person thinks they need hearing aids. Why? Because it is most likely an information processing issue and not the ability of the ears to detect sounds.
Programs like LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement) show remarkable improvement in the ability to “hear the message” in difficult situation where there is background noise or rapid speech. This improvement happens even when people with peripheral hearing loss engage in as few as 10 half hour training sessions.
How does this happen? Well in young adults, listening in difficult listening situations like background noise or rapid speak, the brain doesn’t “hear” all the words but it is able to process information fast enough to fill in the blanks. Not so for many as we get older. Memory processes, decision-making and information processing abilities decline and make this listening situation difficult and stressful. What LACE does is trains the brain to develop better strategies for listening, strategies that compensate for the auditory processing part of hearing loss. Hearing aides amplify the sound but don’t improve this type of listening.
Cerebral Blood Flow and Exercise
So what does this have to do with cerebral blood flow and exercise? Well a recent study published by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada demonstrated an interesting connection.
It found that “a single bout of aerobic exercise flushes the circuitry in the brain with blood, activates brain regions… and as a result participants were able to execute a decision-based task more efficiently, with good reaction time.
Here’s the take away. The brain has the ability to learn and develop new patterns of connects at any age. However, this neuroplasticity needs a brain that in reasonably functional order. Good cerebral blood flow is one of these conditions. Without adequate cerebral blood flow, neural activity declines. So does the potential for neuroplasticity.
So, Boomers, you can dramatically reduce the prospect of losing your mind but you have to ACT. Exercise but don’t just count on one brief bout as in the study above. Exercise is one of the best fertilizers for neuroplasticity.
Second, find ways to engage your neuroplastic ability, to learn new skills. LACE is one example but there are many ways you can introduce neuroplasticity into your daily life. The key is to find activities that push you out of your comfort zone. Learn to Tango or sing. Learn to juggle.