Blacks are more likely than whites to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s Disease later in life, but a new study suggests a simple conversation may be able to help with that.
Could the constancy of a sympathetic ear help guard your brain against the ravages of aging?
Yes, claims new research that analyzed data on nearly 2,200 American adults and found those in their 40s and 50s who didn’t have someone to listen to them had a mental (“cognitive”) age that was four years older than those who had good listeners in their lives.
“This study adds to growing evidence that people can take steps, either for themselves or the people they care about most, to increase the odds they’ll slow down cognitive aging or prevent the development of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease — something that is all the more important given that we still don’t have a cure for the disease,” Dr. Joel Salinas, lead researcher and member of the Center for Cognitive Neurology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, says.
Having an ear to bend when you need to talk is associated with greater “cognitive resilience,” which is a measure of the brain’s ability to function better than would be expected for the amount of aging or disease-related changes in the brain, study authors explain.
Many neurologists believe this mental resilience can be improved through brain-stimulating activities, physical exercise and positive social interactions.
“We think of cognitive resilience as a buffer to the effects of brain aging and disease,” Dr. Salinas adds.
The four years’ difference in cognitive age between people with good listeners and those without “can be incredibly precious,” Salinas says.
“Too often, we think about how to protect our brain health when we’re much older, after we’ve already lost a lot of time decades before to build and sustain brain-healthy habits,” Salinas adds. “But today, right now, you can ask yourself if you truly have someone available to listen to you in a supportive way, and ask your loved ones the same. Taking that simple action sets the process in motion for you to