Long Term Cognition via Avoiding Brain Atrophy

An analysis of data from more than 36,000 adults, led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in overall brain volume. Studies of alcoholics have reported a relationship between temporal lobe shrinkage and a history of alcohol withdrawal seizures, while frontal lobe shrinkage occurs in alcoholics regardless of their seizure history.

COVID-19 may shrink the brain’s gray matter, primarily in areas of the brain involved in smell and memory processing.

Avoid/overcome type 2 diabetes to avoid brain atrophy.

Avoid depression and psychological distress

Depression and brain atrophy are a vicious circle.

This study of 525 elderly subjects, aged 70-86 years showed that temporal lobe atrophy and white matter lesions are related to major depression over 5 years in the elderly.

This meta-analysis of 32 magnetic resonance imaging studies showed small hippocampal volume in patients with major depressive disorder relative to healthy controls.

This study found that subjects with a history of major depression had significantly smaller left and right hippocampal volumes with no differences in total cerebral volumes. The degree of hippocampal volume reduction correlated with total duration of major depression.

This study of 9000 people revealed that patients with recurrent depression have smaller hippocampi.

This study of more than 3000 people showed that a quality of the matter—known as white matter integrity—was reduced in people who reported symptoms indicative of depression.

This meta-analysis using three-dimensional brain magnetic resonance imaging data from 1728 major depressive disorder (MDD) patients and 7199 controls from 15 research samples worldwide showed that, relative to controls, patients had significantly lower hippocampal volumes. This effect was driven by patients with recurrent MDD.

A study of 525 elderly subjects, aged 70-86 years showed that temporal lobe atrophy and white matter lesions are related to major depression.

A study of 1462 women, aged 38 to 60 years showed that long-standing psychological distress in midlife increases risks of cerebral atrophy and white matter lesions in late life.

Exercise vs brain atrophy

14 clinical trials that involved brain scans of 737 people showed that exercise helps avoid brain atrophy. Here is another study. Even short-term exercise interventions have been shown to prevent brain atrophy in older adults and may also improve brain connectivity.

Researchers reviewed 14 clinical trials that involved brain scans of 737 people, with an average age of 66, before and after stationary cycling, walking and treadmill running. After subjects participated in two to five workout sessions per week for 24 months, results suggested an increase in size of the left hippocampus – a section of the brain with brain cells that’s involved with memory and learning.

Older adults that improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain’s cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease.

This study of 381 men and 393 women found, via magnetic resonance imaging of the frontal and temporal lobes, that physical activity and total energy expenditure are significant predictors of frontal lobe atrophy progression during an 8-yr period.

One year of aerobic exercise in a large randomized controlled trial (RCT) of seniors was associated with significantly larger hippocampal volumes and better spatial memory; other RCTs in seniors documented attenuation of age-related gray matter volume loss with aerobic exercise.

One hundred ten cognitively unimpaired adults (66% female, mean age at baseline 64.2 ± 5.7 years) with higher baseline cardiorespiratory fitness had slower annual decline in total gray matter volume (P = .013) and cognitive function.

Thirty previously physically inactive participants (ages 61-88) were put on an exercise regimen that included moderate intensity walking on a treadmill four times a week over a twelve-week period. Study participants who showed the greatest improvements in fitness had the most growth in the cortical layer.

This study of 134 people with an average age of 69 who had no memory problems found that people with the most physical activity had a higher total volume of grey matter in their brains than people with the least amount of physical activity. This may be due to keeping insulin and BMI levels low.

Walking, gardening, swimming, or even dancing may slow brain shrinkage in older adults.

Keep homocysteine low

This study of 732 elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s showed that those with higher homocysteine levels showed greater frontal, parietal, and occipital white matter atrophy in the entire cohort, irrespective of diagnosis, age, or sex.  In older hypertensive individuals, plasma homocysteine levels are associated with increased rates of whole-brain atrophy.

This study implies the high homocysteine is less important than other co-existent chronic conditions.

B vitamins will help control homocysteine.

In this single-center, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of high-dose folic acid showed that the accelerated rate of brain atrophy in elderly with mild cognitive impairment can be slowed by treatment with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins.

In a single-center, randomized, double-blind controlled trial of high-dose homocysteine-lowering folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 showed a lower rate of brain atrophy in 271 individuals (of 646 screened) over 70 y old with mild cognitive impairment.


Be slim

Being overweight or obese has been associated with brain atrophy, white matter changes, disturbances of blood–brain barrier integrity, and risk of all-cause late-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Obesity, as well as numerous related factors, is associated with significant atrophy throughout the brain. The reduced brain volumes are associated with impaired performance on cognitive testing.

Obese subjects with a high BMI (BMI > 30) showed atrophy in the frontal lobes, anterior cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, and thalamus compared with individuals with a normal BMI (18.5-25). Overweight subjects (BMI: 25-30) had atrophy in the basal ganglia and corona radiata of the white matter.

Examining grey brain matter of about 28,000 people, the world first research showed that increased body fat incrementally leads to increased atrophy of grey matter in the brain and consequently higher risk of declining brain health.

Do not smoke tobacco

This study of 159 smokers and 194 non-smokers from 40 to 69 years old showed a significant increase in BAI (atrophic) compared to non-smokers in three age groups, 50-54, 55-59. The systolic blood pressure and serum triglycerides of smokers were significantly higher than the non-smokers. It was suggested that age-related brain atrophy was increased by chronic smoking through advanced atherosclerosis.

This review of multiple high quality studies found that chronic smoking is related to global brain atrophy and to structural and biochemical abnormalities.Chronic smoking may also be associated with an increased risk for various forms of neurodegenerative diseases.

This study of (otherwise) healthy, cognitively normal elderly control subjects (75.9 ± 4.8 years of age) with any lifetime history of cigarette smoking (n = 68) or no history of smoking (n = 118) found that s.mokers demonstrated a significantly greater atrophy rate over 2 years than nonsmokers in multiple brain regions.

Take care of your heart

Older individuals with higher estimated risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) tend to have decreased brain volume, cerebral blood flow, and glucose metabolism in regions of the brain associated with cognitive function and, as such, are at a greater risk of dementia. Even in older adults with no clinical diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, decline in cardiac function is associated with deficits in cognitive function and white matter hyperintensity.

This study of 52 older adults who underwent neuroimaging showed that reduced cerebral perfusion is independently associated with poorer cognition, smaller TBV, and reduced cortical thickness in older adults.

This study demonstrates that cardiovascular disease can adversely affect age-related decline in grey matter volume; and that these disease-related effects could be mitigated by moderate levels of exercise training as part of cardiovascular rehabilitation.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

A study of 1,352 participants without dementia from the prospective Framingham Offspring Cohort Study were examined, leading to the conclusion that midlife hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and obesity were associated with an increased rate of progression of vascular brain injury, global and hippocampal atrophy, and decline in executive function a decade later.

This study of 4,213 participants with an average age of 66 showed that diets rich in fruit and vegetables + fish oil may help to protect the brain against age-related shrinkage.

People who eat a diet rich in fish, fruits and vegetables but low in meat may lose fewer brain cells as they age, according to a study of 674 older adults.

Vitamin B12

A Vitamin B12 deficiency expresses itself by a wide variety of neurological manifestations such as paraesthesias, skin numbness, coordination disorders and reduced nerve conduction velocity. In elderly people, a latent Vitamin B12 deficiency can be associated with a progressive brain atrophy.

A prospective study of 107 community-dwelling volunteers aged 61 to 87 years without cognitive impairment found that the decrease in brain volume was greater among those with lower vitamin B12.

One recent study found that older people with higher levels of vitamin B12 were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage.

Resveratrol improves hippocampal atrophy in chronic fatigue mice by enhancing neurogenesis and inhibiting apoptosis of granular cells.  But olive oil is better: Oleic acid in olive oil, walnuts, and avocado is 10-100 times more potent than resveratrol at activating SIRT1.

Poor sleep quality was associated with reduced volume within the right superior frontal cortex in cross-sectional analyses, and an increased rate of atrophy within widespread frontal, temporal, and parietal regions in longitudinal analyses. Poor sleep quality may be a cause or a consequence of brain atrophy.

Get a recording oximeter to check for sleep hypoxia.

This study of 1,111 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study showed that higher omega-3 index was correlated with larger total normal brain volume and hippocampal volume in postmenopausal women measured 8 years later. Fish oil also slows brain atrophy in rats.

In a study of 398,646 UK Biobank participants, high coffee consumption (more than six cups of coffee a day) was associated with smaller total brain volumes and 53% higher odds of dementia.

Greater methylglyoxal consumption (from advanced glycation end products (AGES)) was associated with lower grey matter volume in 374 study participants. AGES, in general, will tend to shrink the brain.



By Otto

I am a health enthusiast, engineer, and maker.


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