April 8, 2015
According to the U.S. census, over 25% of our population will be over 65 by 2030. There are many reasons for adults to stay active throughout their life, and the NY Times has another: staying active protects brain cells from dying, preventing brain shrinkage. And a common outcome of brain shrinkage is a chronic subdural hematoma (SDH), or bruise in the space surrounding the brain, which puts pressure on the brain and interferes with its function. The Times' article discusses the increasing incidence of chronic SDH in older populations, even without a head injury or fall, and how it mimics other neurological conditions. Symptoms such as sudden and severe headache, weakness on one side of the body, personality or cognition changes, and confusion or difficulty speaking are a sign of immediate need for medical care to rule out SDH or other serious concerns, such as TIA, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, migraine, epilepsy or psychiatric condition. In many cases, chronic SDH can resolve on its own or with medication but about 1/3 of patients require surgery.
So, in addition to cardiovascular and respiratory health and prevention of weight-gain related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, staying active works to protect brain function and cognition and to prevent chronic SDH. Don't know where to start? Try adding an after-dinner stroll to your daily routine, check out some yoga or dance classes at your neighborhood community or senior center, or visit one of Seattle's beautiful parks for a walk along the beach or a forest path. Wear proper footwear to support your ankles and prevent injuries. Now is the season to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Your brain will thank you for it later!