Some promising news gives coffee lovers something to look forward to as they get on in age. A study conducted at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy found a link between coffee consumption and a lowered risk for mild cognitive impairment, as reported by CBS News (“Coffee habits linked to memory, brain health in seniors,” July 2015).

The study involved more than 1,445 seniors, from ages 65 to 84, whose mental health and coffee consumption were tracked over a three-year period. Researchers found that participants who regularly consumed a cup or two of coffee per day had a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, than those who did not. The effect did not extend to those who drank more than two cups per day. Interestingly, the rate of MCI increased over time for those who raised their daily java intake by a cup or more during the study; it seems that moderate, long-term consumption is the name of the game.

Researchers were careful to stress that the study shows a correlation, not a cause and effect. Previous studies on mice suggest that your daily cup of joe may have the neuroprotective effect of minimizing damage from build-up of the kind of harmful protein plaques that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Moderate caffeine consumption might also help the brain by boosting insulin sensitivity and lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is linked to memory problems.

Wondering what else you can do to keep your brain healthy? A recent WCVB Boston article (“Brain Health Now and for the Long Run,” September 2015) provided some suggestions from Dr. Edward Marcantonio, Director of the Aging Research Program in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School:

  • Exercise. Regular exercise reduces stress and encourages better sleep, both important to brain health.
  • Diet. Eating a plant-based diet with limited consumption of red meat is ideal for reducing the risk of cognitive impairment as we age.
  • Stimulation. Doing something that stimulates your mind, whether you play chess or continue to solve problems at work, is essential to keep your brain functioning well. Being active socially also helps keep the brain healthy.