Mental and physical activity seem to be equally important in keeping the brain active to ward off cognitive decline in older age. Exercise seems to affect the brain directly, increasing the number of synapses and enhancing the action of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that make brain cell–to–brain cell communication possible. It also increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a "brain juice" protein that promotes the production of new brain cells and the survival of existing ones.
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