Aging Well in the Digital Age

Every year the risk of Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults increases.

Getting to Know Your Brain

MRI scan showing a normal patient (left) and a patient diagnosed with AD (right)

The Hippocampus

The hippocampus (highlighted blue) plays an important role in consolidating information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

In neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage.

With the hippocampus being our main memory center, researchers decided to take a look at the hippocampus of London Taxi drivers before studying for their exams and after taking their exams. What they found was that the volume of the hippocampi of these taxi drivers increased significantly! This shows that we are capable of expanding our hippocampi!


  • Dementia is a not a single disease, but an overall term that covers a wide range of specific medical conditions (including Alzheimer’s Disease)
  • Disorders categorized under Dementia are caused by abnormal brain changes that trigger a decline in thinking skills and cognitive abilities
  • These changes are typically severe enough to disrupt daily life and independent function, and affect behavior, feelings, and relationships
Symptoms of DementiaNormal Aging
Memory loss that disrupts daily lifeSometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later
Challenges in planning or solving problemsMaking occasional errors when managing finances or household bills
Difficulty completing familiar tasksOccasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show
Confusion with time or placeGetting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later
Troubling understanding visual images and spatial relationshipsVision changes related to cataracts
New problems with words in speaking and writingSometimes having trouble finding the right words
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace stepsMisplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them
Decreased or poor judgementMaking a bad decision or mistake once in a while, like neglecting to change the oil in the car
Withdrawal from work or social activitiesSometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations
Changes in mood or personalityDeveloping very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

  • AD is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior
  • AD accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases
  • Currently, there is no cure for AD, but there is treatment available to slow its progression

AD & the Brain

  • There are two abnormal structures that scientists believe are the main cause of the disease: plaques and tangles
    • Plaques: deposits of a protein fragment that builds up in the spaces between the nerve cells
    • Tangles: twisted fibers or protein that build up inside cells
  • Autopsy studies show that these structures are normal for the aging brain, but with AD there is an abnormal increase in these structures that block communication between cells and lead to cell death
  • Research has shown that these issues usually begin in the hippocampus area

Building Up Your Reserves

fMRI scan showing the blood flow in the brain

Functions our cognitive reserve is responsible for
Taken from Jackson et al. 2016

What is a Reserve?

According to Jackson et al. 2016, a reserve is “the capacity of the brain to maintain function in the face of acute injury and aging.”

Biological/Brain Reserve

The biological/brain reserve refers to the structural integrity of the brain, also known as the brain volume.

The brain is mainly made of neurons, axons, and dendrites. These cells help to process and send information throughout the brain.

The gray matter is made up of neuronal cells which are responsible for information processing.

The white matter is made up of axons which send information to different neurons throughout the brain.

How can we build up our Brain Reserve?

Learning new things

  • When we learn new things, our brain creates new connections, and when we continue to reinforce what we’ve learned, our brain strengthens those connections
  • To improve both memory and cognition, it’s important that we continue to establish new connections or strengthen the ones we already have
  • Remember: Use it or lose it!

Physical activity

  • In a study, 299 cognitively normal adults were asked how often they walk/exercise. Those who reported a greater amount of walking/exercise had a greater gray matter volume 9 years alter, especially in the hippocampus.
  • It’s also been observed that a greater gray matter volume is associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

How can we use technology to help us?

  • Apps for learning new languages, word a day/fact
  • Getting informational newsletters emailed to you
  • Using fitness apps to keep track of your progress or give you new workouts

Cerebrovascular Reserve

The cerebrovascular reserve is known as the capacity of the blood vessels of the brain to maintain blood flow in response to chemical, mechanical, or neural stimuli.

A lack of cerebrovascular reserve might result in:

  • Stroke
  • Aneurysms
  • Brain hemorrhage

How can we build up our Cerebrovascular Reserve?

Physical activity

  • Studies have shown that exercising helps modulate vascular function and inflammation in the brain
  • Aerobic-focused exercises help to reduce risk of neurovascular and neurodegenerative diseases
  • These exercises include:
    • Jogging in place
    • Brisk walking
    • Jumping jacks
  • Any exercise that gets the heart pumping!


  • Your heart health can determine your brain health
  • Research has shown that maintaining a dominantly Mediterranean diet can help promote brain health

Mediterranean Diet

  • Characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, cereals, fish, nuts, and olive oil
  • Studies have shown that the risk of stroke was reduced by 46% during a 4.8 year follow-up period in participants who followed a Mediterranean-style diet
    • 30 g of mixed nuts (7.5 g hazelnuts, 7.5 g almonds, and 15 g walnuts)
    • High consumption of berry fruits (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries) reduced cognitive aging by 2.5 years
  • Reduces oxidative stress which leads to oxidative damage – a state often seen in the brain of patients with AD

How can we use technology to help us?

  • Find workout videos on YouTube
  • Download cooking apps for new recipes
  • Apps for keeping track of what you eat

Cognitive Reserve

The cognitive reserve is known as a capacity for compensatory brain function in order to maintain cognitive performance.

How can we build up our Cognitive Reserve?

Socializing with friends & family

  • Studies have shown that social contact in adults from midlife to older ages help to maintain/build cognitive reserve
  • We are social creatures, and studies have shown that people who are surrounded by loved ones lead happier, more satisfied lives
  • From Kondo & Yamashita (1990), it was shown that the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease was lower for people who were described as socially active by an informant than those described as socially inactive

Brain-focused activities

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Reading
  • Playing board games
  • Activities involving your hands (knitting, gardening, woodwork, etc.)
  • Card games
  • Drawing
  • … and so much more!

How can we use technology to help us?

  • Use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to keep in contact with family & friends
  • Apps for learning new skills
  • Apps for playing games

Contact us to receive more information!

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Suite 212
Newark, NJ 07102