As we age, our brain is aging too, which is inevitable to some extent. It affects everyone, or every brain, but differently. And the speed of its decline depends on how we have treated our brain all these years. Slowing down brain aging would be an ultimate elixir to achieve eternal youth.
Do you know that throughout our lifetime our brain changes more than any other part of our body? From the moment the brain begins to develop in the third week of gestation to old age, its complex structures and functions are changing, networks and pathways connecting and severing.
In the earlier life of the brain, it forms more than 1 million new neural connections every second, thus, the size of the brain increases four times in the preschool period and by the age 6 reaches around 30 percent of adult volume.
The area of our brain responsible for executive functions (such as planning, working memory, and impulse control) are the frontal lobes which are among the last areas of the brain to mature, and they may not be fully developed until 35 years of age.
How does a normal brain age?
As we grow older, our brain does too. Forgetfulness is almost always associated with getting older. Actually, having slight memory slips is normal in both younger and older people.
Older individuals are often anxious about being forgetful due to the link between impaired memory and Alzheimer`s disease. However, Alzheimer`s and other dementia are not a part of normal aging process.
Here are some common memory changes which are associated with normal aging:
(1) Recalling names and numbers – Strategic memory which helps to memorize names and numbers begins to decline at age 20.
(2) Difficulty learning something new – Understanding new information to memory takes longer as we age.
(3) Multitasking – Processing and planning parallel tasks are getting more difficult and takes longer.
(4) Remembering appointments – Aging people are now making sure to have some reminders for their appointments.
But, these are actually the general changes that are happening during brain aging:
(1) Brain mass – the frontal lobe and hippocampus shrink – these are areas involved in our cognitive functions and encoding new memories.
(2) Cortical density – thinning of the outer surface of the brain due to declining synaptic connections thus, fewer connections mean longer processing.
(3) White matter – this consists of myelinated nerve fibers. Myelin is thought to shrink with age, as a result, slow processing and reduce cognitive function.
(4) Neurotransmitter systems – aging causes the brain to generate less chemical messengers. Meaning, decrease in dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which may play a role in declining cognition, memory, and increased depression.
Unhealthy brain and Healthy brain factors:
If your brain is unhealthy, your brain is aging fast. These are usually brought about by few factors. Unhealthy brain is due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity in midlife may accelerate brain aging by around 10 years. Both sugar and diet variety of soda are correlated with fast tracking brain age, having smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory and shrunken hippocampus – which deteriorates your cognitive functions.
According to research, there is a growing body of evidence that people who has a healthy brain share certain characteristics:
> They are the ones partaking in regular physical activities.
> They are the ones pursuing intellectually stimulating activities, .
> They are socially active.
> They are managing stress well.
> They are eating healthy.
. They are sleeping well.
So, how to keep your brain healthy while aging? Here are my honest to goodness tips:
Doing a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise of moderate intensity for at least 45 minutes each session and on as many days of the week as much as possible has been reported to boost brain power in people aged 50 and over significantly.
(2) Playing an instrument
Researchers found that learning to play a sound on a musical instrument changes brain waves in such a way that it improves an individual`s listening and hearing skills. This kind of brain activity indicates that the brain rewires itself to compensate to its decline or any diseases that might prevent a person`s ability to perform tasks. In the same analogy, playing a musical instrument may help prevent some cognitive decline at accompanies aging.
This is a key component of brain health. Recent research has linked omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood with healthy aging brain.
Another study has also determined that consuming foods included in the Mediterranean or the Mind diet is associated with a lower risk of memory difficulties in adults.
Eating the right food and having a healthy diet, the right supplements are all beneficial in making your brain healthy as you age.
While many questions remain regarding the aging brain, research is making progress in understanding how our brain works to preserve and maintain our cognitive functions and memory throughout our lifetime. Although, we cannot stop our brain from aging, we must continue to keep our brain healthy in order to maintain and improve our quality of life as we advance into older adulthood.
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