Many of us take for granted that we will be better off than previous generations.
That is a sensible assumption.
History shows that over time, living standards increase, people become better educated, technology advances, lifespans get longer, and health improves.
That’s why a new study comes as a shock.
It shows that when it comes to mental ability, baby boomers are actually lagging behind their parents. They have poorer cognitive skills than their mothers and fathers did at the same age.
The research was published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences. Dr. Hui Zheng analyzed tests of memory and thinking ability taken by different generations of Americans.
Dr. Zheng found that cognition scores of adults increased from the greatest generation (born 1890 to 1923) through war babies (1942-1947).
But then scores declined with the early baby boomers (born 1948-1953). They dropped even lower with mid-baby boomers (1954-1959).
“It is shocking to see this decline in cognitive functioning among baby boomers after generations of increases in test scores,” said Dr. Zheng.
But what he found most surprising was that the decline occurred “in all groups: men and women, across all races and ethnicities and across all education, income and wealth levels.”
Why are baby boomers losing their mental sharpness at a younger age?
Dr. Zheng said it’s largely due to four factors:
- Lack of exercise
Baby boomers suffer from these issues more than previous generations did. And it has taken a toll on their brain health.
“Part of the story here is the problems of modern life,” said Dr. Zheng.
Baby boomers were helped by some trends. They had better childhood health, more education, and higher income than previous generations.
If it weren’t for those factors “baby boomers would have even worse cognitive functioning,” said Dr. Zheng.
The situation is alarming because impaired cognitive function is linked to a higher risk of dementia. That means baby boomers may suffer from Alzheimer’s at higher rates than their parents.
“This study suggests (dementia rates) may be worse than we expected for decades to come,” said Dr. Zheng.
4 Ways to Stop the Baby Boom Brain Drain
There are steps you can take to alleviate the factors that lead to cognitive decline:
- Exercise. Physical activity is strongly linked to mental sharpness. But many people complain they don’t have time to exercise.
That’s why we recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It gives you a great workout in less than 20 minutes a day.
A 2019 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that HIIT improves blood flow to the brain better than steady state cardio like jogging. Brain blood flow reduces the risk of dementia. 
HIIT is adaptable to many activities. You can run, cycle, swim, do calisthenics, or use a rowing, stair climber, or elliptical machine.
Warm up for three to five minutes doing your chosen form of exercise slowly. Then do the exercise at almost the highest intensity you can for the next minute.
Slow down for a minute or two to catch your breath. Then go hard again for another minute.
Repeat this process five to seven times. Afterward, do the activity slowly for at least two minutes to cool down.
The idea is to push your body for a brief burst, and then allow it to recover.
- Lose weight. Research shows that a low-carb diet is the best way to drop extra pounds. A study published in the journal PNAS found that a low-carb diet can slow brain aging.
And it’s easy to follow:
Avoid sugar and starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes.
Eat meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, and natural fats like olive oil and butter.
Fruits that are high in fiber and low in sugar are OK. They include berries, avocados, grapefruit, kiwis, pears, and watermelon. But avoid fruit juices. They are typically high in sugar.
The most important rule of low-carb eating? Avoid sugary foods and drinks that push insulin higher, especially soda.
You don’t have to count calories or weigh your food. Eat when you’re hungry and until you’re satisfied.
- Keep depression at bay. Research shows non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen are 79% more effective than a placebo at treating major depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids, the active ingredient in fish oil, work against depression as well.
If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, talk to your doctor about trying aspirin and/or an omega-3 fish oil supplement. They may work better for you than prescription antidepressants without the potential dangers.
- Combat loneliness. Dr. Paul Nussbaum is one of the world’s leading experts on brain aging. He says loneliness profoundly damages the structure of the brain.
Here are his five recommendations to reduce social isolation:
Reach out. Call a friend or family member. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Tell yourself you’re not imposing and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
Get a pet. A dog or cat provides companionship.
Join a club. Find one that focuses on one of your special interests and ignites your passion. It could be cooking, knitting, movies, whatever. The important thing is to meet others who share your enthusiasm.
Join an online chat group. It’s important you get to know the others in the group personally. Engage them on an emotional level.
Make plans for the future. Giving yourself something to look forward to fights depression and a lack of purpose in life.
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