The aging process can cause decline in both body and mind. The rate of decline depends upon a number of factors some of which can be controlled—like lifestyle and diet—and others, like the gene pool, potential hereditary diseases, and environmental hazards, are beyond individual control.

With time, cognitive health—i.e. the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember—becomes at risk, especially in advancing years. But, there are a number of things that can be done to mitigate this risk and maintain cognitive health.

Courtesy of the German Embassy in Washington, we learn about a relevant conference onCognitive Health, which took place in Berlin in November 2018. The event brought together experts from academic institutions, medical professionals, and the pharmaceutical industry as well as technology companies to exchange ideas and explore new initiatives on cognitive health.

The goal of the experts was to explain why drug discovery today is in crisis and there is a data flood overwhelming the scientists. Experts discussed how technological advancements in computing power and developments assist our understanding of disease biology motivate numerous companies to create blackboxes that aim to transform big data into smart data. Case studies discussed precision medicine, deep learning, and the global war on brain disease, the outlook for2025, and drug discovery through a discovery engine based on biological intelligence.

TheBerlin conference on Cognitive Health is indicative of the vigorous efforts by healthcare professionals and institutions as well as businesses at the macro level. Equally important is the emphasis on promotion of healthy lifestyles by media as well academic and research institutions.

For instance, Sarah Boseley, Guardian newspaper’s Health Editor, wrote on July 3,2018 that “walking is just not enough, according to a new review of the evidence from Public Health England (PHE)”. According to PHE, “in older adults, poor muscle strength increased the risk of a fall by 76%.” At the recommendations of British Health experts, the article reminds that “fewer people have taken on board the need to stand more and sit less and muscle strengthening and balance have been largely forgotten.”

A very useful report by Harvard Medical School describes a six step program for maintaining cognitive health. “The heart of our cognitive fitness program, however, involves lifestyle changes,” say the expert at Harvard Medical School.

  • Step 1: Eat a plant-based diet
  • Step 2: Exercise regularly
  • Step 3: Get enough sleep
  • Step 4: Manage your stress
  • Step 5: Nurture social contacts
  • Step 6: Continue to challenge your brain

TheNational Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging provides very useful information that reinforces these simple concepts advised by Harvard Medical School. In fact, there is a lot of practical information for those who are aging—or caregivers for the elderly.

The case for maintaining cognitive health becomes strong by looking at some exemplars who engage in robust physical activity. Take for example, Bill Kennedy of Charleston, SC who worked in Egypt at the Ministry of Finance on a USAID project after retiring from the Federal Government. His routine included a daily run in the oppressive Cairo heat. At 84, he still runs and swims in the creek near his house. Dr. Riaz Haider, a retired associate professor at GeorgeWashington University explained his exercise regimen, continuing strong at the age 84, in the gymnasium of his club where he still plays golf and tennis regularly.

Education is the key to many problems faced during the aging process. This is a point stressed by Swiss Ambassador to the U.S. and Board Member of the World Demographic and Ageing Forum, Martin Dahinden. Despite his busy schedule as a diplomat, Ambassador Dahinden is seen on a bicycle around Washington. In doing so, he is another role model for promoting a healthy lifestyle in support of cognitive health.

C. Naseer Ahmad
C. Naseer Ahmad is a contributor to Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.