As of today, there is no magic pill that stops the aging process, Although many products claim to have the power to prolong youth, as of today, there is no magic pill that stops the aging process. But, in the same ways that embracing certain habits and rituals to maintain a youthful and mobile body, we can apply similar practices to help our brains maintain agility.
The first thing to do is to come to terms with the fact that we are aging, all the time, and no amount of magical thinking will reverse the process. If we are not approaching our future with a realistic lens, it becomes overwhelming to stop the flow of time. Instead, think about it as learning to ride the flow of time with skill and ease, so that the journey carries a sense of balance and enjoyment.
How the brain ages
Our brains are made up of both grey and white matter. The grey matter is where essential neurons are found in concentrated areas. It facilitates cognition — or how we acquire knowledge and understand the world — most importantly in our cerebral cortex.
White matter lies underneath the outermost layer of our brains and performs the important role of connection through pathways of electrical signals. It connects areas of grey matter. As we age and the white matter deteriorates, our ability to quickly make connections falters. It’s as though the cities of our brains no longer have roadways to connect them. When we see cognitive disorders, like dementia, we often also find white matter damage.
Exercise can help extend the healthy function of white matter. We know that moving our bodies increases healthy blood flow, keeping the cells of our brains nurtured by fresh oxygen. In one study where almost 2000 participants were recruited, researchers revealed that people who exercised three or more times in one week had a 32 percent reduction in their risk of dementia.
To aid the brain with a regular movement habit, you don’t need to sign up for marathon training. Incorporating casual and habitual movement like a moderate daily walk or even mild exercise can boost your brain’s health.
The adage, ‘you are what you eat,’ is true when applied to brain health. The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat and a diet rich in healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and fish oils promote optimum health.
Dr. Stephen Stahl, adjunct professor of psychiatry, University of California San Diego recommended two diets to reduce dementia risk and support a healthy brain well into our older years at a session of the 2017 Neuroscience Educational Institute (NEI) Congress.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean Diet (MediDiet). Like many wise approaches to eating, these recommendations both prioritize daily servings of fruit and vegetables and advise the limiting or elimination of red meat or processed meat. Proteins like fatty fish are suggested.
Americans are one of the most sleep-deprived countries in the world. Compared to a century ago, we average sleep at least one hour less. What might be to blame for more recent levels of lost sleep is our reliance upon blue light — the light produced by our smartphones and devices — which suppresses the natural release of melatonin in our bodies.
In Alzheimer’s patients, high levels of the protein amyloid beta are often found. We clear the brain of this toxic matter during our sleep process. The most efficient clearing of this protein happens in phase 3 of sleep, which is the deepest phase of non-REM sleep. It is this phase that experts believe is responsible for memory consolidation. When we deprive ourselves of this type of sleep, our brains suffer.
Prioritizing healthy hearing throughout a lifetime can do more than just enhance your ability to connect with loved ones and the world around you. It is a pillar of brain health. We know that there is a strong link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive disorders like dementia. More recently, we are finding out just how impactful hearing loss can be on the brain’s health.
Affecting primarily the temporal cortex — important for language, sound and memory — we see higher amounts of brain atrophy when hearing loss is present. For people with mild hearing loss, we can expect double the risk of dementia. As conditions of hearing loss progress, the risk rises. For folks with moderate hearing loss, a risk of three times exists. For those with severe hearing loss, they run an increased risk of five times compared to people without hearing loss.
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The great news is that treating hearing loss can support your cognitive health. Schedule a hearing consultation with our highly trained team today!