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More great news about drinking coffee daily - for women. Older women (between ages of 65 to 80 at the start of the study) reporting drinking higher amounts of caffeinated beverages (about 261 mg which is about 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day) had a lower incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment over a 10 year period (as compared to the low caffeine group). The low caffeine group averaged 64 mg of caffeine per day.  Other studies also found a reduction in "cognitive decline" in older people with coffee consumption. This study, among others, is more evidence of caffeine being "neuroprotective". NOTE: an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, 8-ounces of brewed black tea contains about 47 mg, a 12-ounce can of carbonated cola contains 33 mg, and 8-ounces of decaffeinated coffee has about 5 mg of caffeine. Science Daily:

For women, caffeine could be ally in warding off dementia

Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

"The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications," said Ira Driscoll, PhD, the study's lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "What is unique about this study is that we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large and well-defined, prospectively-studied cohort of women."

The findings come from participants in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Driscoll and her research colleagues used data from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption. Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment. Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine for this group (with an average intake of 261 mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day). The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking, and alcohol consumption. (The original study in the Journal of Gerontology.)

Another study showing big problems with anticholinergics, which are in many popular medicines - both non-prescription and prescription (e.g., Chlor-Trimeton, Benadryl, Tavist, Dimetapp). An earlier study with older adults found a dose-response link with dementia, but the current study explored this issue further. They followed 2 groups of  "cognitively normal older adults" in their early 70s for several years: those who took anticholinergic medicines and those who did not take anticholinergic medicines. They found that those who took anticholinergic medicines had reduced brain volume (brain shrinking) and cognitive decline (when compared to those who did not take anticholinergic medicines). The researchers summarized their findings as the "use of anticholinergic medication was associated with increased brain atrophy and dysfunction and clinical decline". This finding was greatest for those taking drugs with the most anticholinergic activity.

See a list of anticholinergic medicines  from the Aging Brain Program of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. Definitely try to avoid medicines with a score of 2 (medium effect) or 3 (high effect), but I would even be cautious about score 1 (low effect) medicines - use all medicines only as long as absolutely needed. My one very important question is: If these effects are found in older adults, what do anticholinergics do to younger brains, especially the developing brains of children? From Medical Xpress:

Brain scans link physical changes to cognitive risks of widely used class of drugs

Older adults might want to avoid a using class of drugs commonly used in over-the-counter products such as nighttime cold medicines due to their links to cognitive impairment, a research team led by scientists at Indiana University School of Medicine has recommended. Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers found lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among study participants taking the drugs known to have an anticholinergic effect, meaning they block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter.

Previous research found a link between between the anticholinergic drugs and cognitive impairment and increased risk of dementia.....Drugs with anticholinergic effects are sold over the counter and by prescription as sleep aids and for many chronic diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A list of anticholinergic drugs and their potential impact is at http://www.agingbraincare.org/uploads/products/ACB_scale_-_legal_size.pdf.

Scientists have linked anticholinergic drugs and cognitive problems among older adults for at least 10 years. A 2013 study by scientists at the IU Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute found that drugs with a strong anticholinergic effect cause cognitive problems when taken continuously for as few as 60 days. Drugs with a weaker effect could cause impairment within 90 days.

The current research project involved 451 participants, 60 of whom were taking at least one medication with medium or high anticholinergic activity. The participants were drawn from a national Alzheimer's research project....and the Indiana Memory and Aging Study. To identify possible physical and physiological changes that could be associated with the reported effects, researchers assessed the results of memory and other cognitive tests, positron emission tests (PET) measuring brain metabolism, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for brain structure.

The cognitive tests revealed that patients taking anticholinergic drugs performed worse than older adults not taking the drugs on short-term memory and some tests of executive function, which cover a range of activities such as verbal reasoning, planning, and problem solving. Anticholinergic drug users also showed lower levels of glucose metabolism—a biomarker for brain activity—in both the overall brain and in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory and which has been identified as affected early by Alzheimer's disease. The researchers also found significant links between brain structure revealed by the MRI scans and anticholinergic drug use, with the participants using anticholinergic drugs having reduced brain volume and larger ventricles, the cavities inside the brain.

 Vews about exercise and aging have really changed over the last century. Bottom line: walk  - it's good for cognitive health, especially as you age. Try for at least 1 mile per day (1 mile = approx. 20 minutes brisk walk). From The Atlantic:

Walking for a Better Brain

 A “nerve specialist” from New York named J. Leonard Corning said in 1909 that he was opposed to “excessive exercise,” ... He thought that with the “over-cultivation of the physique the mentality suffered.”Corning wrote during a period when experts widely believed that brain cells didn’t regenerate. As a result, graceful aging was in large part a matter of learning to cope with gradually diminishing brain capacity. Modern science has shown that’s not the case; we do generate new brain cells throughout our lives, although the process can become increasingly imperfect and less efficient with age, as it does with much cellular activity.

One of the largest studies ever conducted was on a group of 121,000 nurses, who were surveyed on a wide range of their health and lifestyle habits starting in 1976. The survey was repeated every two years. This established a trove of valuable information, which public-health researchers have been fruitfully mining since. Among them is Rush University assistant professor Jennifer Weuve, who studied the data collected on 18,766 of the nurses, who were then ages 70 to 81, to unearth connections between exercise and cognitive ability. The results, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested that those who exercised the most—the group that maintained a median level of walking for six hours a week—were 20 percent less likely to show cognitive impairment than those who exercised the least.

Other long-term studies also show that even modest exercise can serve
 as a bulwark against dementia. A study started in 1989 with 299 elderly 
volunteers in the Pittsburgh area tracked mental acuity and exercise habits....The results, published in the journal Neurology, were sweeping and conclusive: Those who walked the most cut in half their risk of developing memory problems. The optimal exercise for cognitive health benefits, the 
researchers concluded, was to walk six to nine miles each week. That’s a mile to a mile and a half a day, without walking on Sundays if you’re inclined to follow Weston’s example of resting on the Sabbath. (This study concluded that walking an additional mile didn’t help all that much.)

A study written up in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2001 tracked nearly six thousand women ages 65 and older for six to eight years. The women were given a cognitive test at the study’s beginning and end, the results of which were then correlated with how many blocks they walked daily. Those who walked the least had a drop of 24 percent in cognition. Those who walked the most still showed a decline, but of a lesser degree: 17 percent. The results were clear: “Women with higher levels of baseline physical activity were less likely to develop cognitive decline.”

Peter Snyder of Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, who studies the effects of aging on the brain, recently told National Public Radio that “what we’re finding is that of all of these noninvasive ways of intervening, it is exercise that seems to have the most efficacy at this point—more so than nutritional supplements, vitamins and cognitive interventions ... The literature on exercise is just tremendous,” he said.

Indeed, a 20-year-long study in 2010 found that walking just five miles per week “protects the brain structure” over a 10-year period in people with Alzheimer’s disease and in those who exhibit signs of mild cognitive impairment. “The findings showed across the board that greater amounts of physical activity were associated with greater brain volume,” the researchers concluded.

While different studies arrive at moderately different conclusions via various routes, the recent research of dozens of scientists more often than not converges at a single intersection. And that consistently suggests that if you exercise, your brain will be fitter than if you don’t. This applies to the young, those in the prime of their days, and especially to the elderly.

The 20-year 2010 study mentioned above, results from which were released by Cyrus Raji of the University of Pittsburgh, followed 426 older adults, including healthy people along with those showing mild cognitive impairment or the actual onset of Alzheimer’s. Across test subjects, more walking was shown to result in greater brain volume. “Unfortunately, walking is not a cure,” Raji said. “But walking can improve your brain’s resistance to [Alzheimer’s] disease and reduce memory loss over time.”