About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Brain Academy - Healthy Aging

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Healthy Aging - tips and techniques to keep your brain healthy and sharp as you age

Dr Niall Pender, Principal Clinical Neuropsychologist, Beaumont Hospital & President, Psychological Society of Ireland

A healthy Brain-Tips, myths and information.

The adult human brain weighs 3lbs. It represents 2% of total body weight but uses about 20% of the body's total energy to function. There are 100billion neurons which all interact with different brain structures to produce our experiences. It is still a vulnerable organ and can be damaged easily by accident or illness - protect it where you can!

Nevertheless, the brain is a wonderful organ and allows us to move through life with ease. We can work, think and remember. We can feel emotions and plan for the future. However, the human brain is not perfect; it is neither a photograph nor a computer. When it works it often makes a "best guess" at information that we need.

It can make mistakes and it can sometimes let us down. This can often worry people as people feel that sometimes these are signs of changes to the brain due to illness or injury. As different parts of the brain are generally responsible for different skills and abilities neuroscience specialists use these signs to point to diseases or illness. Mostly, these are everyday lapses and reflect normal levels of forgetting that happen to everyone all the time. As we age these changes can happen a bit more often but there is evidence that these changes can be managed and delayed.

Tip 1:
Keep fit and active. This will improve efficiency, reduce risk of associated illnesses and keep your brain functioning well.

Tip 2:
Keep stimulating your brain with activities and interests. Don't give up! Try to learn new things, challenge your concentration and your abilities.

Tip 3:
Watch your diet and health (esp. alcohol and smoking), these can be associated with other medical conditions that will affect your brain.

Tip 4:

Use strategies and techniques to improve and manage your thinking, such as memory skills. Don't be afraid to use other aids such as diaries, notebooks, your mobile phone or a computer to help you.

Tip 5:

Be patient with yourself. Mostly these lapses are normal and with time can be overcome; Have fun! Try to keep up with friends and family and enjoy social contact. This can help you feel more positive and manage any worries. Many changes can be managed and with a little knowledge and effort! Good Luck!!

Tip 6:

Often worry and anxiety can make these difficulties worse so make sure you allow time to relax and if you are very worried about symptoms seek advice from your doctor. Tell other people if you are worried about a symptom or sign. You can be referred for an assessment which can help clarify the type of symptoms.

Familiarise yourself with symptoms of conditions such as heart disease and stroke. - Irish Heart Foundation, Helpline: 1890 432 787 - stroke services in Ireland