The Defy Aging Newsletter

Anti-aging psychology, holistic health, and wellness

a biweekly e-mail newsletter for helping you think, feel, look, and be more youthful and live with purpose.

May 8, 2008 Number 187

This issue:

Mental Savings Accounts

Action to take

Be sure you are making deposits in your mental savings account. Then be of good cheer that your mental savings account helps buffer you from dementia and Alzheimer's--and even helps improve your cognitive functioning.


Penn State researchers, Sherry Willis and K. Warner Schaie, report that between ages 46 and 60, 10-15% of people show cognitive declines, and 10-15% of people show cognitive gains. The biggest factors in improving minds are mental stimulation, education, and exercise. Your brain is like a muscle, use it and it grows stronger, don't use it and it atrophies. Apparently, any kind of mental stimulation helps--taking a course, reading, artistic pursuits, music, and even playing games. (But please don't tell my video-game-addict teenaged son I said games.)

Another validation for the dementia preventative effects of using your mind comes from David Snowdon's study of nuns. A convent provides an ideal research environment as the nuns have the same environment, schedule, food, and even prayers--year after year for decades. In his book, Aging With Grace, Snowden reports that nuns with better education and nuns who had intellectual pursuits were less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer's. Results were verified by psychological testing, genetic testing, and brain autopsies.

Willis and Schaie found that the one common denominator in who lost cognitive functioning was hypertension. Thus, successful management of hypertension is vital important to future cognitive functioning.

Another twist comes from Brandeis researcher Margie Lachman, who found a wide variation in cognitive change over time, and that decline is often reversible. She found that people who feel in control of their lives were likely to be happier,  have better health, and be sharper mentally. She speculates that not feeling in control leads to anxiety, distress, and not looking for solutions.

Envisioning a mental savings account encourages you to make sure you are making deposits and gives a more hopeful outlook that decline is not inevitable--rather your mind can get better with age.


The life you are leading is simply a reflection of your thinking.

~Doug Firebaugh

Few minds wear out; more rust out.

~Christian Vovee

We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow.

~Woodrow Wilson


Men forget everything; women remember everything. That's why men need instant replays in sports. They've already forgotten what happened.

~Rita Rudner

He has a first-rate mind until he makes it up.

~Lady Violet Bonham Carter

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