Listen Up!

What’s the old adage? “The art of conversation lies in listening.” New research shows you can improve your brain health by surrounding yourself with people who will listen to you.

8 teams of researchers analyzed data from 2700 adults who are 45 and older. They were predominately white and hadn’t had a stroke or developed dementia. The group answered 5 simple questions: Can you count on anyone to listen to you when you talk; Is there someone available to give you good advice about a problem; Is there someone available to you who shows love and affection; Can you count on anyone to provide emotional support; Do you have as much contact as you like with someone you feel close to, in whom you can trust and confide? After 9 months, doctors scanned patient’s brains and measured how well their brains worked. Participants in their 40’s and 50’s who answered “no” to the 5 questions had brains that were 5 years older than adults who had high listener availability. Researchers believe having someone to listen to you strengthens the parts of the brain that helps you think well, and helps mitigate the unhealthy effects of stress hormones and heart disease.

There’s also evidence that being listened to can have a profound impact on remaining independent and doing what you love in your day-to-day life.

What can you do with this information? Doctors think you develop the best “cognitive resilience” if you find and connect with a “listener” or a network of “listeners” well before you get old.

Doctors don’t know if you can get the same effect from a phone call, text, or email as you get from a face-to-face chat. So, if you want a better brain, find someone to talk to. Find a lot of someone’s to talk to. And by all means, help your “listeners” by lending an ear.

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