It’s easy to forget that our brain is an organ and, just like every other organ, it needs to stay healthy if we are to live a long and fulfilling life. When talking about longevity, people tend to focus on hearts, livers, and the organs that supply our brain. All of those organs can be in great condition, but if our brain is suffering, our life won’t be as enriching, or long, as it should be. It’s essential to focus on brain health in order to live our best lives.
So, what can you do to benefit your brain and keep it healthy and sharp? Research makes a surprising connection between education and brain health: Those who are better educated suffer less when they face cognitive decline. Here’s what you need to know about this research.
The Research on Brain Health and Education
Formerly, research seemed to indicate that those with the highest education were least likely to develop diseases of cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
However, cognitive decline is complicated and multi-faceted. The latest research indicates that once you develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, you will decline at the same rate whether you are well-educated or not. However, getting new education and exercising your brain can build-up your “cognitive reserve.” In effect, your brain will be healthier for longer, because it was healthier to start with.
It’s like you’re someone who was perfectly healthy who developed liver disease. Your liver will decline more slowly than someone who is an alcoholic, or whose liver was already struggling. You’ll still decline, but you have more time.
What might be behind the connection between education and brain health? Research has found that prolonged education thickens areas of the brain that are involved in learning and recalling knowledge. Thicker areas may be more resistant to damage.
Plus, it is still the case that getting more education reduces the risk of brain infarctions (strokes and related syndromes). These health issues can have just as powerful an impact on your life as dementia.
Also, getting new education will boost your brain performance. What does brain performance mean? It’s not just about your IQ, it’s also about your resistance to brain injuries. Essentially, research indicates that those whose brain is stronger manage better even when their brain develops a health problem.
Should You Invest in Education to Promote Brain Health?
So, how do you invest in your cognitive reserve, and build your brain health? The good news is that researchers no longer think the education you got early in life is so important. The most important thing is how you exercise your brain now.
According to Matthew Solan, executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, exercising the brain with new knowledge is key to keeping your brain healthy. It’s also important to challenge yourself instead of staying within your brain’s comfort zone. One study found that those seniors who learned complex skills saw greater improvement in memory than those that did simple tasks to exercise their brain.
Other research has also demonstrated that our brains, like out biceps, get better when they are challenged. So, you should ask yourself, what would challenge you?
Our program, The NEURO PLAN App automatically finds your strengths as well as the areas where your brain needs to be challenged. The app will send you individualized challenges, along with recommendations for exercise, nutrition, and other ways to support your brain’s health.