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No one wants to get old. Our bodies change, our skin starts to sag and we lose the mental clarity we took for granted in our younger years.
As we get older, we begin losing neurons – cells that make up the brain and nervous system. By the time we reach our sixties, our brains have literally begun to shrink.
Fighting Father Time
As scary as that might seem, we’re not entire powerless over the matter. There are things we can do to reverse the aging process (in our brains, at least), which include:
- Get mentally stimulated: Countless research studies have shown that “brainy” activities, such as reading, painting or solving crossword puzzles, stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells. This, in turn, helps the brain develop plasticity, or the ability for to form new connections between brain cells and hedge against future cell loss.
- Get a move on: Research shows that using your muscles also helps your mind. Regular exercise not only increases the blood flow to the region of the brain responsible for thought, it also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases connections between those cells. This results in brains that are more efficient and adaptive. Exercise has other benefits, too. It lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes, and reduces mental stress – all of which helps both your brain and your heart.
- Eat a healthy diet: Heart disease, diabetes, morbid obesity and high cholesterol all make life tough on your brain, so overall nutrition is key. Double up on greens, limit saturated fat intake and be mindful of the sodium in your diet. Antioxidants, such as blueberries and cranberries, should also become diet staples. Not only do they neutralize harmful free radicals, they’re especially good for your brain health.
- Get some ZZZ’s: We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. But according to a recent study, not getting enough shut-eye can increase the rate your brain ages and speed up the decline in cognitive functioning. No matter what your age, lack of sleep can worsen fuzzy thinking and cause short-term memory problems. Turn in at a decent hour each night and shoot for six to eight hours of sleep.
- Remain calm: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” has a whole new meaning when you get older. Traumatic stress can be a nightmare for brain cells, as it disturbs vital cognitive processes – like learning and memory – and consequently limits your quality of life. It even affects the hippocampus, the primary center for memory formation in your brain, making it more difficult to retain information.
- Stay Popular: Having strong social ties becomes even more crucial as you age. Not only do relationships help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of depression, studies have shown that those who continue to maintain close friendships live longer than those who isolate themselves. Get out there and mingle!
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