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April 15, 2009 > Learn About Flexing Your Brain

Learn About Flexing Your Brain

Today, there's no doubt the older generation in America is booming. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2007 there were nearly 38 million people age 65 and older in this country, and that number has continued to swell. With the infamous Baby Boom generation fast approaching 65, our entire society feels the impact. One area of increasing interest for Baby Boomers and other older Americans is brain health.
In the past, it was generally accepted that becoming senile or forgetful was a normal part of the aging process. However, recent scientific evidence points to the fact that brain age doesn't necessarily mean learning, memory, decision-making and planning skills will decline. Many people now believe there are things you can do to keep your brain fit.
In response to this trend, a free seminar on "Brain Health for Seniors" will be presented at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West building next to Washington Hospital in Fremont on Friday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Washington Hospital's Senior Care Program and Pathways to Positive Aging (a partnership of the City of Fremont Human Services Department and the Tri-City Elder Coalition). "Brain Health for Seniors" is the second in a series of educational events about health and prevention called "4 Seasons of Health," which has been developed by Pathways to Positive Aging a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The seminar is designed to help people learn how to take better care of their brain and improve their memory and thought processes. Presenters include cardiologist Ash Jain, M.D., medical director of the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital, and Susan Diamond, MSW, a geriatric social worker, recreational therapist and adult educator.


Feeding your brain

At the seminar, Dr. Jain will discuss the importance of good brain nutrition, what happens to brain cells as we age and how these changes can affect the body.
"To maintain good health, the cells of the brain have their own nutritional needs," explains Dr. Jain. "Much of this has to do with good blood circulation in the body so brain cells can get oxygen and other nutrients to continue functioning normally. As we age, poor circulation or a lack of nutrients to the brain can damage the cells and lead to a higher likelihood that problems such as dementia or stroke will occur."
* In the human brain, different areas control different functions of the body. These areas include the brain stem, the cerebellum, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, and the cortex. The cortex, also called the cerebrum, integrates information from all of your sense organs, initiates motor functions, controls emotions and holds memory and thought processes.
* Over time, if cells die or deteriorate, changes in a person's thinking or behavior may occur, depending on where the brain cells are located. Normal cells secrete neurohormones that enable the body to function. When cells die in a certain area of the brain, a person may experience movement problems, such as Parkinson's disease or another movement disorder. If the area where the cells die controls memory or thought processes, Alzheimer's or other types of dementia may occur.
* "There is still much to learn about how the entire process works," says Dr. Jain.


Playing games

An experienced presenter of total brain fitness programs, Susan Diamond, will provide an overview of beneficial, brain-related activities for physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Diamond will discuss recent neuroscience research findings about specific activites and why they're important.
"Recent neuroscience research, some of it done here in the Bay Area, has given us a lot of hope in terms of brain fitness," states Diamond. "The good news is there are specific things you can do to maintain and enhance the health of your brain."
She will also involve the group in interactive games designed to keep the brain active.
The games have qualities that encourage brain health, such as being challenging and offering variety, as well as word games that strengthen attention, focus and concentration. She'll also review currently available cognitive fitness training computer software.
"There are a number of software packages on the market today, and some are specifically designed to enhance brain health," adds Diamond.
Other topics Diamond will touch on during her presentation include memory, laughter exercises, and music games.


To sign up

To reserve your space at "Brain Health for Seniors," call Washington Hospital's Health Connections as (800) 963-7070. For seniors who aren't able to attend the seminar, condensed versions of the presentation will be offered at local senior centers at a later date.

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