Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Treating Your Body Better May Save Your Mind

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Treating Your Body Better May Save Your Mind

Article excerpt

What makes us eat healthfully, or stick to an exercise regimen?

For most of us, it's because we want to look good to others, or maybe think more highly of ourselves -- and often this turns out to be a feeble, flickering desire, too easily losing out to the comfy couch, late-night TV and a box of jelly doughnuts.

But what if you had a family history of Alzheimer's disease -- or had already noticed in yourself some signs of cognitive impairment - - and you learned that sprucing up your lifestyle habits could lessen your chances of suffering from the ravages of dementia?

Fear of losing your mind, it turns out, can be a powerful incentive to take care of your body.

A year ago I wrote about a local venture called Sci-Brain (scibrainhealth.com), a partnership between the nonprofit Roskamp Institute and Youthful Aging Home Health. The idea was to evaluate people in terms of their "Brain Reserve Index," or BRI.

The BRI, derived from an algorithm developed by Roskamp researchers, takes into account a person's fitness, diet, mental activity and medical history and calculates his or her risk for diminished capacity over the next decade.

After a monthlong evaluation, clients of the program are given the option to sign up for personal coaching in clinically proven methods -- exercise, a Mediterranean diet, socializing and mind- challenging activities -- to lower their risk for cognitive loss.

Out of 33 clients so far, 20 have opted to stick with the program. And for the 30 percent who have completed the evaluation, five-month coaching period and re-testing, the results are striking: an average improvement of 50 percent in their personal BRI score (on a scale of zero to 200); and an average improvement of 15 percent in performance on memory tests.

"We did not expect that in a six-month period we would see any type of memory improvement," said Stefan Crynen, chief scientific officer for Sci-Brain, who analyzes the data. Crynen attributes the success so far to a "cascading effect" of lifestyle and medical interventions that delivered such benefits as lower cholesterol levels, better diabetes management and "significant weight reductions" for clients aged 49 to 75. …

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