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Brain Health and Our Interactions With Others

Updated February 21, 2020

Leacey Brown

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are hot topics. With good reason, the number of people with these diseases is expected to increase as the population ages. Fortunately, scientists are working diligently to unravel the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Research tells us that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not an inevitable part of aging.

Michael C. Patterson and Roger Anunsen have compiled the research on brain health in their book, Strong Brains, Sharp Minds. They have developed The Cogwheels of Brain Health Model to help us understand factors that either increase or decrease our risk of developing memory loss.

The Cogwheels include:

  • Physical Exercise and Movement
  • Mental Stimulation
  • Stress Management
  • Social Engagement
  • Sleep and Mental Rest
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Spirituality and Purpose.

This article is the fourth in our series about Brain Health to help identify strategies to keep our brains healthy.

  • Can Learning New Skills Prevent Dementia?
  • Physical Exercise and Movement
  • The impact of chronic stress

Research finds that adults who experience positive interactions with other people are at a lower risk of developing memory loss. For example, participating in a bowling league or volunteering at your local church. Positive interactions provide opportunities for us to give and receive help. In addition, the healthy stress of complex social interactions keeps our brain heathy. Isolation, loneliness, and loss of social status put us at risk for developing memory loss.

How positive interactions with others affect the body:

  • Reduces cardiovascular reactivity
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Promotes healthier hormone patterns
  • Promotes the release of oxytocin
  • Mitigates hormonal reaction to stress (e.g. cortisol)

Together these positive effects provide tremendous risk reduction in developing memory loss and help to reduce the risk of developing other chronic health conditions.

What can we do to keep ourselves socially engaged?

  • Remain active in the workplace
  • Volunteer
  • Join social clubs or groups
  • Travel

 Please stay tuned for the next article in our series in brain health.


Related Topics

Aging Well, Health