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What Does the Latest Research Say About Brain Health?

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Tue, Aug 12th 2014

We all want to keep our brains functioning as well as possible for as long as possible. But how do we do that? It seems as though every week, we read a new article in the news about what to do or not to do - and many of these recommendations conflict. Confusion that many feel about how to stay healthy and alert often leads to apathy.

healthy food in brainFortunately, three agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a set of educational materials called, "Brain Health as You Age: You Can Make a Difference!" Developed by the Administration for Community Living, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, the materials summarize the latest research about brain health in such a way that consumers can confidently follow clear guidelines to enhance their brain health and well-being.

Here are some highlights from the materials:

  • Whether a person develops a brain disease or injury almost always depends on a mix of genetic factors, the environment, and personal health choices.
  • Knowing your family history of brain conditions such as dementia and stroke can help you make lifestyle choices geared toward lowering your risk of these problems.
  • Medication side effects and interactions can cause problems in brain functioning. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review everything you are taking to see if the dosages are correct and if any medications (including prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements) might interact with each other in a dangerous way.
  • Smoking and excessive alcohol can damage the brain in addition to other organs.
  • Physical conditions like diabetes and heart disease can negatively impact brain health and functioning.
  • Mental health conditions such as depression can impact brain functioning and may increase the risk of dementia.
  • Poor diet, lack of sleep, inadequate exercise and decreased social activity can all negatively affect brain health. It pays off to take care of yourself and stay active!
  • We don't often think of falls and accidents as a source of brain injury, but these become more common as we get older. As a precaution, wear helmets when riding motorcycles or bicycles, check your home and workplace for fall hazards, and buckle up.

For more information about "Brain Health as You Age: You Can Make a Difference!" click here. And take some of this research-based advice to heart - or "to brain," that is.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Brain Health as You Age: You Can Make a Difference!


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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