Getting older means that our bodies start to change, and although we can’t see them, one of the most important parts of us that will undergo the aging process is our brains. Aging and the brain is quite a complex subject and there are many things that happen to our brains as we get older.
Lots of factors come into play with age-related brain changes, whether they’re hormonal or neurological. While it’s impossible to prevent the aging process on any part of our bodies, there are some things we can do to slow down the effects that age has on our brain so that we’re able to feel younger in the mind for many more years.
We’re going to explore the various changes that the brain goes through as we age and what factors cause it to do this. By understanding more what causes it and why, we can further understand the effects of aging on the brain.
It’s no secret that as we age, our brains do as well. Many elderly individuals will tell you they have problems remembering things or concentrating as well as they used to, and we accept this as a standard fact of life.
There are many reasons why our brains change with age, including the size of them and our cognition. All aspects of our brains change, and our incidences of developing more serious conditions like dementia and white matter lesions also increase.
Thankfully, there are protective things we can do to reduce the risk of these and keep our brains from aging too far beyond where we are. With a little bit of knowledge about these protective factors, you can start helping your brain to slow down the aging and deterioration that takes place.
Brain shrinkage with age is one of the most significant changes that occur in our bodies as we grow older. We now know that the volume and weight of the brain will decrease with age, reducing by around 5% for every 10 years after the age of 40. After 70 years of rate, it is believed that this increases even further.
As the brain gets smaller, so does our volume of neurons, and it’s suggested that this is why we start to lose some of its power. Not all areas of the brain lose volume at the same amount, and it’s been discovered that the prefrontal cortex is the part most affected. This area is responsible for memory among other things, which is not surprising to learn.
In addition to the brain physically changing, there are many changes to our cognitive functions as well. The most obvious function to start losing power is our memory and there are four sections including semantic memory, working memory, episodic memory, and procedural memory.
Episodic and semantic memory are the most important in terms of aging and the ones that are most affected. Episodic memory involves things like remembering your first day of school, and once you hit middle age this starts to decline. Semantic memory is also known as ‘memory for meanings’ which refers to basic things like knowing the capital city of your state.
When we talk about aging and the brain, we don’t often discuss what exactly causes these changes. Obviously, growing old is a part of life and something that can’t be undone, but there are various factors that might make someone age faster or slower mentally than others.
Every decade from adulthood, our dopamine levels decrease around 10%. When this declines, it has been shown that motor performance and cognition also decline.
Serotonin production also slows down with age and can affect the plasticity of the brain and its ability to learn new things.
Sex hormones play a huge role in the aging process and it was discovered that women can start experiencing these changes to their brain during menopause.
It has been found that the brain could also be affected by impaired glucose metabolism in old age, which means your brain isn’t getting enough glucose or oxygen.
While we can’t stop the aging process completely, there are some things you can do through your life that will slow it down somewhat. Studies have found that there are a few key factors you should keep in mind if you want to keep your mind active and brain healthy.
Keeping alcohol intake to low or moderate amounts will help stimulate the hippocampus part of the brain as well as improve your cardiovascular health.
Studies have shown that people with a diet high in energy but low in antioxidants were more likely to experience brain deterioration earlier. Therefore, eating a balanced and nutritional diet is always important.
Our cognitive reserve is said to be protected when we are stimulated by either education or occupation, so it’s important to keep your mind active at all ages.
Our brains are the most important parts of our body for sure, and just because the rest of our bodies age, it doesn’t have to. There’s no way to fully prevent aging and all that comes with it, but there are plenty of things we can do to slow this process down for our brains.
Treat your mind with the same care you do for the rest of your body and you will surely be rewarded in your later years.