Building Health Capital

Written by Nicole Scheidl

June 12, 2012

Dr. Stern proposed this interesting idea at the Sharp Brain Summit – that just like being concerned about growing our retirement portfolios or economic capital, we also have to be concerned about building our ‘Health Capital’.

The concept of ‘Health Capital’ from Dr. Stern’s perspective, deals with the importance of building cognitive reserve throughout our lifetimes. Cognitive reserve is the capacity of our brain to respond to stressors like disease or brain trauma and recover from or mitigate the observed effects. For example, an individual with a larger cognitive reserve would show the effects of Alzheimer’s disease much later than an individual with a small cognitive reserve.

A significant amount of scientific research has shown that:

mentally stimulating activities,

physical activity,

social stimulation,

good nutrition and


are important factors in building cognitive reserve. The most important of these five factors for building cognitive reserve is partaking in activities that are mentally engaging. Whether it is solving logic puzzles, studying a new language or learning a musical instrument or a new piece of music – our brains benefit from the challenge.

So just like saving for retirement we should be ensuring that we are participating in the activities listed above to build our ‘health capital‘. Enjoying life and living it fully – with a healthy brain – should be part of our lifetime plan.

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1 Comment

  1. Ronyn

    Actually, after further research on the HBO site, they do talk more about the research behind cognitive reserve in their work. Thank you to Randy Buckner from Harvard University and David Bennett from Rush University Medical Center for your great work in this area.


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