Betsy Agnvall is a features editor for health at AARP Media. She's fascinated by research that helps us understand how to live our lives to the fullest - keeping mind and body strong and sharp. She previously worked as a freelance writer for The Washington Post, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Safety and Health magazine and other publications.

How Exercise Affects the Brain and Improves Memory

For years, doctors have recommended exercise as one of the best ways to keep our brains healthy as we age. Now new research finds that regular sustained exercise may be able to slow or even reverse the biological changes that cause dementia. What’s more, exercise may even be an effective treatment for those with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. The findings, presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C., have important implications for an aging population …

Women With Memory Problems Decline Faster Than Men

Women are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease as men, but for years, doctors assumed that was simply because women lived longer. Now it appears there’s more to it. Emerging research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington this week suggests there may be biological differences that put women at higher risk — not just for developing the disease as they age, but for experiencing precipitous declines after surgery or general anesthesia. “Understanding these differences will help us …

Loneliness Is Bad for Your Brain

Feeling lonely is dangerous for your brain health, according to a new study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this week. Lonely older adults are not only more likely to experience declines in mobility and physical limitations; they are also more likely to have memory problems and are at higher risk for dementia, says Nancy Donovan, geriatric psychiatrist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Donovan and her colleagues studied 8,300 men and women 65 and older and found that …

New Ways to Predict Who Will Get Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers still don’t have a treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s, but they’re coming closer to being able to predict who will develop the disease that robs the minds of millions of Americans every year. One long-term study presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington found that a combination of memory tests, brain scans and body fluids can predict with about 80 percent accuracy whether a person without memory problems will develop the disease. Scientists at Johns Hopkins …

A Delicious Diet That Protects Your Memory

four Want a diet that gives an extra boost to your brain? Try a few almonds for a midmorning snack, extra-virgin olive oil on your salad at lunch, and walnuts on your fish dinner. Adding additional helpings of extra-virgin olive oil and nuts to the already brain-healthy Mediterranean diet can help protect your memory and thinking skills, at least according to one new Spanish study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The research builds on previous studies finding that the Mediterranean diet — rich …

Tough Job? You May Reap Brain-Health Rewards Later

Ever feel like you’ve worked so hard that your brain needs a break at the end of the day? Or that you’ve negotiated your way through so many political minefields that you feel you should get a peace prize? Although it may seem as if your workplace is frying your brain, it turns out the mental demands of work help protect your memory and thinking skills later in life, at least according to one new study published in the journal …