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Brain Maintenance

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An aging population is discovering that maybe the ol’ noggin might need extra help in staying fit. Is physical exercise enough to maintain a healthy brain? After all, what good is a toned body if the gray matter isn’t functioning properly? To aid the older American is this quest is an array of products — from nutritional formulas with clever names like Brainstorm, Smart ALEC, and Mind Clear to software brands: Big Brain Academy, My Brain Trainer, Mindfit, and Thinkfast! While marketers claim diet supplements can increase blood flow and reverse changes caused by aging, the pitch from computer program manufacturers make the promise to strengthen reaction time, improve memorization, add mental agility, and improve quick decision-making skills. Prices for the software run from $40 to $395.

There are a lot of promises made by manufacturers of nutritional supplements and developers of “mind improvement” CDs. The great marketing push is underway to promote these items to the aging baby boomers, since many will opt to stay in the working world and forego retirement. These products offer a means to stay sharp, think quick, and perform with optimum efficiency. But before you start swallowing performance enhancing chemicals or turn your PC into a brain gym, there are a few facts you should know about the effectiveness of these products.

In the area of nutritional supplements, there is little proof that these products improve the functioning of the brain. In fact, many neuroscientists consider their use a form of superstition. Perhaps there will be a breakthrough for memory improving drugs, but at the present time these products have no effect on the aging brain.

What about those claims from software companies? Do these programs actually improve memory, quicken response time, and stimulate brain activity? Mental work-outs on a computer screen have little to do with maintaining a healthy brain. According to Timothy Salthouse, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, computer designed exercises accomplish very little for an aging society – and if you’re hoping that these products will prevent brain function decline – well, the answer is no.

So, how do we keep our brains in good working order? Decades of research point to factors that are directly related to mental fitness: physical activity and self-efficacy. Increase the blood flow to your brain and you will stimulate cell rejuvenation. This can be accomplished by taking brisk walks. Regular exercise can help nerve growth — which can create denser branched neurons — which in turn ward off disease of the brain. This keeps your brain in good working order.

Another essential factor for optimum brain health is self-efficacy? This is the key to maintaining a healthy brain. Self-efficacy is defined as the perception of ourselves. It is the “can do” attitude; the belief in one’s abilities and talents. When the individual is well grounded in the concept of achievement and accomplishment, the brain remains well.

The brain responds to a stimulating environment, and thrives on novelty. An individual of self-efficacy will create the surroundings that provide these things. In contrast, the person that has not developed self-efficacy will accept any setting, even if it is detrimental for brain growth. Therefore, teaching motivation skills will enable the brain to react accordingly.

The wide selection of anti-aging drugs, nutritional supplements, and computer programs will continue to flood the market as the aging population continues to grow. However, knowing what really makes us good thinkers, has always been, and continues to be, within us; our self-efficacy.

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Source by Nancy Ayash


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