The brain is an organ that also grows old, but there are ways that can help your health and delay the consequences of the advancing years. The brain is an organ that, like the rest of our body, ages over the years.
If we all want to stay younger, it is not only because we dislike wrinkles, but also to avoid the many diseases related to aging.
Forecasts indicate that by 2050, 25% of the European population will be over 65 years old and the number of people over 80 years old will triple.
But is there a fountain of youth for our brain? Although nothing possibly takes us back in time, we can try to age in a healthy way and reduce the effect of the years.
What is aging?
Aging could be defined as the set of changes that occur with age and cause a decrease in our physiological, motor, and cognitive abilities.
The primary is gradual and inevitable and occurs throughout our lives.
The secondary or premature It is triggered by certain diseases or substance abuse, and it can be prevented.
Chronological age (that of the birth certificate) indicates the time that has elapsed since our birth.
However, there is also the physiological age, that depends on the condition of our body and it can be less than the chronological one (if we take care of ourselves) or greater (if we have bad habits).
With age, the size of the brain decreases, we lose neurons and hormone production is altered and neurotransmitters.
However, the most important change that occurs is the loss of many of the connections between neurons, long-lived cells that do not divide and therefore hardly regenerate.
Another consequence of brain aging is the accumulation of proteins in the form of aggregates that tend to deposit both inside and outside the neurons.
This can trigger the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.
It should be noted that what is commonly referred to as senile dementia is an outdated term. Aging does not necessarily imply dementia or significant memory loss.
If there is a significant loss of memory and learning capacity, it would be related to a specific disease and not to normal aging of the brain.
Measures to slow down aging
Diet is essential for healthy aging.
The most recommended is the Mediterranean, which briefly implies a low consumption of meat and poultry, a low to moderate consumption of dairy products, a moderate amount of alcohol (wine) and fats (olive oil), and a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and fish.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of suffer from cognitive failures and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Also, calorie restriction, or limiting the calories we eat, can help slow aging.
In addition to taking care of what we eat, it is advisable to sleep eight hours a day.
Maintaining a good wake-sleep cycle is essential for many brain functions, for example for the elimination of toxins from the brain that have accumulated during the day.
Getty Images Also, calorie restriction, or limiting the calories we eat, can help slow aging.
While we sleep, the space that exists between neurons increases, facilitating their cleaning and proper functioning. Therefore, maintaining a good night’s sleep promotes healthier aging.
Regular exercise and physical activity are key to reducing the effects of aging.
Clinical studies indicate that physical training with moderate intensity plays a neuroprotective role, slowing down the decrease in brain volume and improving its functioning.
Specifically, aerobic exercise improves cognitive function, not only during aging but also in people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.
On the other hand, it has been proven that those people who have a higher educational level or who maintain a certain intellectual activity -read, study, or acquire new skills- they are less likely to develop dementia.
The basis for this neuroprotection is associated with the formation of new connections between neurons.
Other healthy habits can help us too to avoid the effects of premature aging.
It has been proven that those people who have a higher educational level or who maintain a certain intellectual activity – reading, studying, or acquiring new skills – are less predisposed to developing dementia.
Without going any further, while a large intake of alcohol runs the risk of inducing cognitive failure, other alcoholic beverages can be beneficial to maintain good mental health.
Wine, for example, is high in polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action.
Tobacco is definitely a habit that should be avoided, since it has been linked to the acceleration of aging and the appearance of cognitive problems and dementia.
Nor should we lose sight of the risk factors related to chronic diseases that are highly prevalent in the elderly.
The maintenance of the activity and integrity of the brain depends, in large part, of blood vessels that maintain good blood supply.
Hypertension, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol levels increase the chances of developing cognitive failures, stroke, and dementia.
Diabetes and obesity affect glucose metabolism and lead to insulin resistance. Both alterations could cause chronic damage to neurons and accelerate brain aging.
To this is added that diabetes and obesity affect glucose metabolism and generate insulin resistance.
Both alterations could cause chronic damage to neurons and accelerate brain aging.
Mood disorders don’t help either.
Depression is a very common emotional disorder in older people and is caused by an imbalance in neurotransmitters, which are the molecules that neurons use to communicate.
This maladjustment could translate into long-term brain malfunction, which would accelerate brain aging.
In short, the key to maintaining a healthy and young brain is the same as for the rest of the body.
That is, you have to maintain a healthy diet, sleep enough hours, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, avoid tobacco and stress, do moderate exercise, and avoid the development of other diseases or, at least, keep them under control.