We all know what happens to our body as we age: muscles become weaker, joints ache, our sight and hearing fail. But what about the brain? Does it also gets weaker or learns and knows more as it becomes older? The brain is also a part of our body and thus, unfortunately, follows the same path as the other parts. It shrinks in size and loses many of its functional abilities; this is called brain aging.
What happens when brain ages?
It has been found that the brain shrinks in size and loses weight at the rate of 5 percent every ten years after a person becomes 40 years old. The rate further increases after age 70. This physical change in the brain is not the same in all parts of the brain; some parts may undergo relatively fewer changes as compared to other parts. However, as in anything else like your muscles, shrinkage is not a good sign, and it affects the ability and cognitive functions of a person greatly, resulting in reduced performances in a large number of things from memory to hand-eye coordination.
Effects of brain aging
Since the parts of the brain that shrinks with aging include those responsible for learning and other mental activities, these areas are significantly affected. That is why older adults often have difficulty in recalling names or events; their memory function has lost much of its ability. In particular, episodic memory like the memory of your first car, and semantic memory or memory of meanings like remembering that the name of your elementary principal was Mrs. Jones, suffers brain aging more. And that is why many disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s are associated with older adults with aged or old brains.
Brain aging also comes with other unwelcome changes like reduced blood flow to the brain, reduced communication between the nerve cells of the brain or neurons, and increased inflammation, which affects even older adults with generally better health. The effects of these changes on a person may be understood this way: the brain has a big network of blood vessels and needs a big supply of blood. Even though it weighs only less than three percent of the total body weight, it gets about 20 percent of the total blood circulating in our body. So, you may imagine how reduced blood flow to the brain affect the normal functioning of the brain and the person.
Treatment of the effects of brain aging is pretty much still a grey area with a lot of things not fully understood even by the experts. Even so, there are treatment methods claimed to be effective in combatting brain aging and its associated illnesses. Below is a list of such methods that you can try yourself or on your loved ones.
Brain exercise, though it will not reverse the aging process can no doubt slow down the appearance of its effects. Everything, if kept idle, loses out its strength and power. The same is true for your brain. The fact that you are retired doesn’t mean that your brain can also retire along with you and can stop thinking. Mental exercise to keep your brain fit and moving is very essential.
A healthy diet is said to be an effective method of slowing down your brain aging. An overall-healthy nutrition through balanced diet and foods rich in antioxidants are said and seen to have worked wonders. Following a healthy diet plan would also improve your overall health and prevent many complications that can happen with brain aging.
The best place to look for help is always at the doctor’s. While the factors we mentioned above are no doubt helpful, there may be other problems specific to you that contribute to serious conditions which, when combined with effects of your brain aging, can have ugly results. The doctor will also know what medications to prescribe that will help you have a healthier and active health. Remember that many mental conditions and illnesses are by-products of poor overall health, and who better than a doctor is there to treat it?
So, aging is a natural part of life, and its effects on the brain is also a course of nature. However, there are things you can do to lessen complications caused by brain aging and, it is clear, they are worth doing. Don’t wait, start before your brain gets too old.