Kevin Bickart, MD, PhD: Healthy Body. Healthy Mind.

Kevin Bickart, MD, PhD

"It is a common assumption that as we age, there is a higher chance of being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Some individuals accept that dementia is an inevitable diagnosis when you are approaching the fourth act of your life. But what if by incorporating physical activities in your life, you could help reduce the risk? Keiro interviewed Dr. Kevin Bickart, a UCLA professor and neurologist, with a specialization in sports and behavioral neurology as part of UCLA’s BrainSPORT and Neurobehavior programs, on how finding a balanced and active physical lifestyle can help prolong your brain health.

A Healthy Brain

Dr. Bickart said a healthy brain is one without any scars or shrinkage. Scars happen when there is a blockage of blood flow to certain parts of your brain, also known as strokes. Shrinkage, or atrophy, occurs as a normal part of aging but can accelerate with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Accumulating scars or shrinkage over time can affect your brain health and lead to cognitive decline. The good news is that the biggest risk factors for developing these progressive conditions are within our control. Surprisingly, the greatest risk comes from how we live our lives rather than our genetics. Whether we have these scars or shrinkage depends mostly on environmental factors like drinking, smoking, eating poorly, having sleep disruptions, inactivity, social isolation, and so on. So how do we maintain a healthy brain?

Achievable Physical Activity Tips

Believe it or not, Dr. Bickart said years of research shows that staying physically active as you age is one of the best ways to improve your brain health and prevent cognitive decline, even more than just doing brain exercises. He mentioned that using mobile applications for braing health, or playing brain games, can only improve the brain’s ability to play that game. It does not seem to help people cognitively perform better in everyday life. For example, playing a memory game will only help with your memory for that specific game and not your overall brain health. It is more ideal to combine a cognitive exercise with a physical one to improve your overall brain health."

Read more at Keiro.