Don't Fall for these 5 Half-Truths about Brain Health

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You can't believe everything you hear. With that in mind, here are the top 5 myths about your brain.

1. It is what it is.

Not necessarily true. Through physical exercise, mental activity and diet, scientists have found that the physical brain can actually change. For example, the size of areas important to memory such as the hippocampus can increase. Your memory and overall cognitive functioning can also improve through physical and mental exercise such as cognitive training programs.

2. Once your memory starts to decline, it's too late.

It's true that Alzheimer's disease can't be fully reversed at this time. But there are medications that can slow the progression, as well as many non-drug approaches that can even improve functioning for a limited amount of time. Research has shown that physical exercise, mental activity and diet can all potentially improve brain functioning for a time, even after dementia has been diagnosed.

3. It's normal for older people to lose their memory.

Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia are not normal, regardless of someone's age. In general, a person's ability to find the right word and their speed of processing information decreases in late life. But the memory loss of dementia is significant enough to impair daily functioning and is typically the result of a major disease such as Alzheimer's, a stroke or a specific type of disease such as Huntington's or frontotemporal dementia.

4. Alzheimer's disease only happens in older people.

Although Alzheimer's is most common in older adults, it can also develop much earlier in life. Approximately 200,000 people under the age of 65 have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Alzheimer's disease always brings many challenges with it, but when it develops in younger people, it can cause additional difficulties with job functioning and family life.

5. If you take good care of yourself, you will not develop dementia.

If you take good care of yourself, your risk for dementia declines (and often significantly), but there is no proven way to completely guarantee prevention of dementia.

There are, however, many scientifically-backed ways to decrease the chances that dementia will develop.

Read More about Risk Reduction

Sources:

Pennsylvania Behavioral Health and Aging Coalition.Brain Health: Cognitive Changes in Older Adults. Accessed December 26, 2014. http://www.olderpa.org/Resources/Documents/GRN/2013%20Spring/Session%203/Shumaker%20Session%203B.pdf

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