Published on: November 10, 2011
by Anna Ferguson Hall for Life Extension Daily News:
Like clockwork, the Brunswick resident stops by the library every other week, checking out as many books as she can carry. Last week, she signed out 14.
“I can really only carry about 12 or so in my bag, but I just stuff as many as possible in it anyway,” Connell said. “There is no limit on how many you can check out, so I take advantage of that, you’d say. I read at least six books a week.”
At 71, Connell is an active reader with a sharp mind. She is quick on her feet, clever and vivacious. She loves the TV trivia show “Jeopardy!” and usually knows most of the answers. She can do several tasks at once and has a mind like a steel trap.
“Well, maybe I can’t remember things as much as I once could, but I think I’m hanging in there and doing well,” Connell said.
Her spryness and spunk are likely due to how active she keeps her brain, she speculates.
“I do think that the more active you keep your brain, the longer you hold on to those traits of brain power you have at a younger age,” Connell said.
Connell is not alone in that thinking. Overwhelming research has shown that older citizens who keep their minds sharp and active are more likely to retain a higher level of brain power as they age. Keeping the brain active through exercises like reading regularly is vital to preventing memory loss and reduced brain function, said Janice Vickers, executive director of Alzheimer’s of Glynn/ Brunswick.
“There is no question that reading can maintain a healthy brain as you age,” Vickers said. “The saying is true: If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. That’s one in eight older Americans. Vickers said the disease, though prevalent in aging citizens, can be avoided or, at the very least, delayed. Working to prevent the condition at an earlier age is key to ensuring a quick mind like Connell’s, Vickers said.
That means flexing the brain as often as possible in a variety of ways. Cracking a book or other printed work awakens many functions in the brain, including concentration, vision and comprehension, Vickers said.
Reading books, magazines and periodicals aren’t the only sources individuals can lean on for stimulating brain function. Doing research online, playing trivia games and even crossword puzzles have been shown as ways to produce more brain function and prevent dementia-related diseases, Vickers said. Reading also can be a link to diagnosing early stages of memory loss. The ability to read can slip from some patients early in the process of developing the disease.
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