It’s important that we take the utmost care of our brains. This is especially true the older we get. A slight decline in cognitive function and memory is to be expected as we get older but there are things we can do to slow down the aging process. Here is a brief rundown of how and why the brain ages the way it does and warning signs that your brain is aging faster than it should.
How Does the Brain Age?
How exactly our brain ages is something that is widely controversial in the research community, with researchers falling in several different ideologies. What we do know is that aging has its effects on the molecules, cells, vasculature, gross morphology, and cognition. Memory decline also occurs with aging and brain activation becomes more bilateral for memory tasks.
While some memory loss and cognitive function loss can be expected with aging, severe memory loss, such as dementia, is no longer considered a part of normal brain aging. This is a new development, as dementia was once seen as a regular part of aging among the research community. There are many factors that may contribute to someone developing dementia, but the exact reasoning behind the development of the disease is still uncertain.
How Does your Brain Change with Age?
As we get older, we can see the effects aging has on us physically through wrinkles, gray hair, and loose skin. However, we may not even notice the effects aging has on our brain. Much like muscles and joints, certain cells in our brains can stiffen up. This can lead to several different changes. Here are some changes prevalent to brain and age:
- Cognitive change - The normal aging process will bring subtle changes in cognitive abilities. The older we get the more and more difficult it may become to recall names and numbers. Our working memory, which is the ability to hold a piece of information in mind, also declines with age
- Structural changes - Once we hit our 30s or 40s, our brain begins to shrink, with the shrinkage rate increasing around the age of 60. Some areas of the brain shrink more and faster than in other areas. For example, the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus show the biggest losses
- Neuronal changes - Changes to the neurons contribute to the shrinkage and cortical thinning of the aging brain
- Chemical changes - The older we get, the fewer chemical messengers our brains generate. This can attribute to memory loss
Keep in mind, these are the expected side effects of aging. A severe or sharp decrease in cognitive function is NOT a part of the normal brain aging process.
Does Everyone’s Brain Shrink With Age?
As we mentioned earlier, everyone’s brain will shrink as we get older, it’s part of the normal brain aging process. Typically, the brain will begin shrinking once we hit our 30s, with the shrinking increasing when we hit our 60s. Researchers believe that our brains slowly shrinking is the evolutionary price we have to pay for having bigger brains and longer life spans than other animals.
It’s also part of the reason why researchers believe that humans are animals that can develop brain maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers even believe that this shrinkage is inevitable, and can’t be reversed. Rapid brain shrinkage can be a symptom of certain diseases and will require medical attention.
How Do We Tell the Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Brain Aging?
The importance of your brain health can not be overstated. It’s important to do all you can to ensure your brain is as healthy as possible, especially as you get older in age. Part of keeping your brain healthy is looking out for any potential warning signs. Recognizing symptoms of a brain disease, brain injury, or mental disorder can help you get the help you need as quickly as possible. Here are some of the things to look out for:
- Nausea - Symptom of brain diseases, brain tumors, and brain injuries
- Memory loss - Symptom of brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases
- Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs - Symptom of brain tumors
- Depression - Symptom of mental disorders
- Bleeding from the ear - Symptom of brain injury (if you are experiencing this symptom it’s highly recommended that you seek help immediately)
- Anxiety - Symptom of neurodegenerative diseases as well as mental disorders
Keep in mind, these symptoms are also common in other diseases. Just because you’re experiencing one does not mean that you are suffering from a brain injury. It’s best to consult with your doctor so you can get a better understanding of what’s going on.
What Causes Premature Aging of the Brain?
As we mentioned earlier, researchers and scientists no longer believe that memory loss and forgetfulness is a regular part of aging. There are several different things that can lead to premature aging of the brain, some factors are hereditary while most are lifestyle-related. Here are some of the things that can cause memory loss and forgetfulness:
- Medications - There are several different of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can interfere with our brain’s ability to process memories
- Alcohol - One or two drinks a day can help improve heart health but excessive alcohol use has long been associated with memory loss
- Smoking - Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. Those who smoke find it more difficult to put faces with names than do nonsmokers
- Sleep deprivation - Sleep is incredibly important, as the brain uses that time to file away memories. Getting too little sleep can lead to fatigue, which interferes with the ability to consolidate and retrieve information
- Depression and stress - Depression makes it difficult to pay attention and focus, which affects memory. Stress can overstimulate the brain, which can cause a loss in memory
- Strokes - Strokes often cause short-term memory loss. Those who have suffered from a stroke may have vivid memories of childhood events but are unable to recall what they had for breakfast
As you can see, many of these factors are lifestyle driven. One cigarette, one crazy night out, or one restless night isn’t the end of the world but if these things regularly happen it can greatly affect your ability to remember things.
Supplements Can Help
Taking care of your body with a proper diet, exercise routine, and supplement regimen can help you increase your longevity. Supplements, such as a spermidine supplement, can help you live a longer life by inducing autophagy throughout your body. Autophagy is the body’s process of replacing older, potentially damaged cell parts, with newer healthier ones.
This process becomes increasingly important as you get older and your cells become more and more worn down. Supplements can be beneficial because it can be difficult to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet alone. By taking a spermidine capsule with your dinner, you ensure that you always get your daily dose of spermidine.