What can I do About an Aging Brain?

Josie Myers

No one looks forward to the time in their life when they have an aging brain. Memory loss and an inability to concentrate are common complaints among those in the latter half of their life. The good news is that the brain can be trained much like any other part of the body. Scientists have uncovered several ways to keep an aging brain from affecting quality of life, even possibly fighting off deteriorating diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's in the process.

Mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles, can help keep an aging brain sharp.
Mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles, can help keep an aging brain sharp.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the connections between brain cells, called synapses, can be weakened or strengthened similarly to muscles in the body. Just as an athlete who stops working out loses muscle tone, the brain loses connections when it is not used for particular purposes. Age generally will cause a decline in brain cell connections, so it is particularly important to use various skill sets to keep the brain fresh. The old adage "use it or lose it" absolutely applies to an aging brain.

Blueberries are high in antioxidants, which can help keep a brain young.
Blueberries are high in antioxidants, which can help keep a brain young.

Some major health issues that affect other parts of the body also affect the brain. Things like lack of sleep and high stress levels that are known to weaken the immune system can also weaken brain functions like memory and information processing. Physical activity not only improves the cardiovascular system, but can also help to build and maintain the synapses that send messages to the brain. Aerobic exercise, which sends oxygen throughout the body, has been shown to be particularly healthy for an aging brain.

Brain cell connections deteriorate with age, so mental stimulation is crucial.
Brain cell connections deteriorate with age, so mental stimulation is crucial.

Eating a healthy diet can also help maintain brain function. Studies show that what is best for the body appears to be best for the brain as well. Limiting alcohol and high fat foods is always a good idea for maintaining overall health. Look for foods high in antioxidants, like blueberries and beans. Omega 3 acids are fatty acids that the body can not naturally produce. They are generally found in fish and have been shown to help with everything from vision deterioration to depression.

Sudoku can be a great game to keep aging brains stimulated.
Sudoku can be a great game to keep aging brains stimulated.

Keeping busy seems to be one of the key factors to slowing degeneration, as those who are active in all ways seem to have the most healthy brain function. General socialization with others is absolutely important as are hobbies. Any activity that involves concentration can help to build new synapses. Mental exercises like crossword and math puzzles are to the brain what weight lifting is for a muscle. The process of aging certainly cannot be stopped, but, with a little effort, an aging brain doesn't have to stop someone from enjoying life as they choose.

Positive emotional and social relationships with family and friends can help boost cognitive abilities.
Positive emotional and social relationships with family and friends can help boost cognitive abilities.
A synapse may become less active and less capable of passing on signals, or more active, with a greater degree of conductivity.
A synapse may become less active and less capable of passing on signals, or more active, with a greater degree of conductivity.
Reading is a good way to stay mentally active, which is important for the prevention of dementia.
Reading is a good way to stay mentally active, which is important for the prevention of dementia.
The brain's plasticity allows it to change, remap, and even heal itself over the course of a lifetime.
The brain's plasticity allows it to change, remap, and even heal itself over the course of a lifetime.

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