Socializing may benefit the brain like exercise benefits the heart.
New research published in The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences has shown that older people who get together with friends, volunteer, or go to classes have healthier brains, and that could help them delay dementia.
Engaging with others, even moderately, was found to activate parts of the brain that play key roles in memory. Socializing may help maintain brain regions associated with emotions, recognition, decision-making, and feeling rewarded.
Staying connected with others, even those in your household, may help stave off depression, memory loss, and potentially put off dementia.
Like your muscles, the brain requires use to stay engaged. Put simply, if you’re not using it, you’re losing it. Talking to friends and engaging with other people requires it to fire on a number of cylinders to keep neural pathways open.
Several causes can kill brain cells, and inactivity is one of them. When too many brain cells die, dementia can follow. Socializing may help keep brain cells alive.
The results in the new study were based on looking at nearly 300 seniors with an average age of 83. The intricacies of how socializing improved brain health still need to be ironed put.
Researchers still need to explore if social engagement keeps the brain healthy or having a healthy brain leads to more social engagement. Regardless, there is a clear association between brain health and social engagement.
Dementia has no cure, so prevention is essential. Socializing is free and has no adverse side effects. And you don’t need a vast network either. You can reap the benefits by simply talking more to your husband, wife, or child.
The pandemic, of course, has made in-person socializing much more of a challenge. But talking on the phone, using virtual tools, and finding other ways to stay engaged can all offer benefits.
So get chatting! It could be the best way to keep your brain healthy with age.
Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for BelMarraHealth, which first published this article.