Thursday, 26 March 2020

Ageing and What Happens to Our Brains?

Photo: iStock/ SIphotography

Our brains control thinking—remembering, planning and organizing, making decisions, and much more. But what happens to the brain as we age?

As we grow older, we may feel changes, including our brains:
  • Certain parts of the brain will shrink, especially those important to learning and other complex mental activities;
  • In certain brain regions, communication between neurons (nerve cells) can be reduced;
  • Blood flow in the brain may also decrease;
  • Inflammation, which occurs when the body responds to an injury or disease, may increase.

Yes, we cannot avoid aging. But we can still maintain our brains’ function before it is too late. Here are 12 ways how :-

1. Get mental stimulation

Perform more brainy activities! Read, learn new things or solve problems. Scientists believe that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may help the brain in generating new cells, developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.

2. Get physical exercise

Exercise regularly may increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). This results in more efficient, plastic, and adaptive brains.

3. Improve your diet

People that eat a Mediterranean style diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil) and plant sources of proteins are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.

4. Improve your blood pressure

All parts of the body depend on the circulation, and many organs suffer from the impact of untreated hypertension. One of the organs at greatest risk is the brain. High blood pressure increases the risk of cognitive decline in old age, and is the leading cause of strokes. Lifestyle modification is a significant way to keep your pressure low. Stay lean, exercise regularly, reduce stress, and eat right.

5. Improve your blood sugar

Diabetes is an important risk factor for dementia. You can help prevent diabetes by eating right, exercising regularly, and staying lean. But if your blood sugar stays high, you'll need medication to achieve good control.

6. Improve your cholesterol

High levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol are associated with an increased the risk of dementia. Diet, exercise, weight control, and avoiding tobacco will go a long way toward improving your cholesterol levels.

7. Consider low-dose aspirin

Some observational studies suggest that low-dose aspirin may reduce the risk of dementia, especially vascular dementia. Ask your doctor if you are a candidate.

8. Avoid tobacco

Smoking speeds up brain ageing (Lothian Birth Cohort 1936). The research found that smokers had a thinner cerebral cortex than non-smokers – in other words, smoking was destroying the grey matter in smokers. This is important because the cerebral cortex is a part of the brain that is crucial for thinking skills.

9. Don’t abuse alcohol

When a person drinks excessively, the liver cannot filter the alcohol fast enough, and this triggers immediate changes in the brain. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two drinks a day.

10. Care for your emotions

People who are anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Poor scores don't necessarily predict an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age, but good mental health and restful sleep are certainly important goals.

11. Protect your head

Moderate to severe head injuries, even without diagnosed concussions, increase the risk of cognitive impairment.

12. Build social networks

New research from the Ohio State University (B. M. Smith, X. Yao, K. S. Chen & E. D. Kirby, 2018) found that mice housed in groups had better memories and healthier brains than animals that lived in pairs. According to the research, a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain.

Basically, cognitive aging is the brain’s version of your body parts working less efficiently due to age, rather than due to disease or serious damage. This loss of efficiency is gradual. But it’s not a disease. Thus, it is important for everyone to be prepared for the aging brain. Make your plan today before it’s too late!

(The above are for informational purposes only and does not constitute the providing of professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any concerns regarding your health.)

1.     How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking, National Institute on Aging USA
2.     12 ways to keep your brain young, June 2006, Harvard Health Publishing
3.     Deary, I. J., Gow, A. J., Taylor, M. D., Corley, J., Brett, C., Wilson, V., & Starr, J. M. (2007). The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936: a study to examine influences on cognitive ageing from age 11 to age 70 and beyond. BMC Geriatrics, 7, 28.
4.     B. M. Smith, X. Yao, K. S. Chen & E. D. Kirby (2018), A Larger Social Network Enhances Novel Object Location Memory and Reduces Hippocampal Microgliosis in Aged Mice
5.     Leslie Kernisan, 6 Ways that Memory & Thinking Change with Normal Aging (& What to Do About This),

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