Losing your marbles may just be a matter of time, so it’s good to know that there are steps you can take to stave off an aging brain. Forgetting names, faces and words as we get older seems like an unavoidable fate and medical science has little to offer in the way of comfort. In just over 100 years, the average human lifespan has increased from 47 to 75 – not a long time to unravel the mysteries of the aging brain. So, it’s a relief that there are steps you can take to slow the age induced brain drain. We start to lose our memories in our 20s and 30s, leaving decades of cognitive decline ahead of us. By the time we see the signs in our 60s or 70s, a lot of changes have accumulated, which could lead to dementia and its severe form, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Timothy Salthouse, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, believes that only taking steps to avoid further decline that late in the game, though useful, may be drastically suboptimal. So take action now to slow your descent down the slippery slope of forgetfulness.
Looking after your body can also help keep you mentally sharp. Evidence indicates that going for a brisk 45-minute walk just three times a week reduces loss of brain function with age. Maintaining a lower weight may help too. Over 40 years ago Prof Finch found that mice on restricted diets were less likely to suffer from age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Since then similar findings have been seen in humans. Scientists theorise that restricting your calories reduces high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, which in turn reduces inflammation, which may help stave off cognitive decline and AD. So it’s no surprise that obese and diabetic people typically show more signs of brain aging.
YOU SNOOZE, YOU … BENEFIT
Research suggests that sleeping for 8 hours each night could protect against memory loss.
Stress, anxiety and depression diminish mood as well as brain function. The hormone cortisol is produced by your body during times of stress. A little cortisol is great for memory, but a lot negatively affects the neurons in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for consolidating memories). A recent study found that elderly individuals who were more vulnerable to stress and anxiety had more chance of developing AD. Stress and anxiety appeared to interfere with ability to process and store new information and was linked to a faster drop in cognition.
A recent study found that depressive symptoms in midlife are linked to a 20% higher chance of developing dementia and double the risk of developing AD. Symptoms in later life come with even higher risks. The study suggests that depression in later life could be a symptom rather than cause of dementia, but midlife depression is more likely to be a cause. Controlling your stress and anxiety levels using natural medicines like Rhodiola Rosea may help. 5-HTP, St John’s wort and SAMe may reduce depression. Exercise, yoga and engaging in activities you enjoy may also help relieve stress and boost mood.
Avoid processed food high in trans and saturated fat (refried oil, processed baked goods and animal products), refined carbohydrates (white bread), sugar and salt, which have been linked to accelerated brain aging. These ingredients are known to increase blood pressure and sugar levels, speeding up mental decay.
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