The trusted source for
healthcare information and
By Joseph E. Scherger, MD, MPH
Vice President, Primary Care, Eisenhower Medical Center; Clinical Professor, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Dr. Scherger reports no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.
SYNOPSIS: Healthy aging allows for hippocampal neurogenesis in the brains of adults into the eighth decade of life.
SOURCE: Boldrini M, Fulmore CA, Tartt AN, et al. Human hippocampal neurogenesis persists throughout aging. Cell Stem Cell 2018;22:589-599.
A group of investigators from New York and Macedonia performed 28 autopsies on healthy human individuals aged 14-79 years, focusing on the hippocampus, the main memory center of the brain. While older individuals exhibited less angiogenesis and neuroplasticity, investigators found similar numbers of intermediate neural progenitors and thousands of immature neurons capable of becoming mature neurons. The authors postulated that stem cell activity persists in the healthy aging brain.
These results provide further support for previous investigations that revealed cognitive decline may be reversed in elderly patients with a healthy lifestyle.1-3 Other researchers have documented growth of the hippocampus in seniors. More work remains to determine the most important determinants of healthy aging, but low-glycemic and anti-inflammatory nutrition, regular exercise, restful sleep, stress management, and executive cognitive function all play some role.3-5
Promoting a healthy lifestyle should be at the foundation of primary care practice. Patient education and motivational counseling toward better health practices are crucial skills for primary care physicians. This puts medication and procedures as secondary interventions when needed. Two influential figures in history reportedly predicted this role for physicians long ago. Maimonides was said to have advised that a disease that could be treated by diet should not be treated by any other means. Later, Thomas Edison’s focus on diet reportedly led him to predict that rather than focusing on dispensing medicine, doctors in the future would instruct patients in the care of the body, in diet, and in preventing disease.
Financial Disclosure: Internal Medicine Alert’s Physician Editor Stephen Brunton, MD, is a retained consultant for Abbott Diabetes, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Salix, Allergan, Janssen, Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi; he serves on the speakers bureau of Salix, Allergan, Janssen, Lilly, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim. Peer Reviewer Gerald Roberts, MD; Editor Jonathan Springston; Executive Editor Leslie Coplin; and Editorial Group Manager Terrey L. Hatcher report no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.