Today’s news media is quick to publish reports detailing the adverse effects of aging on cognitive ability. Even so, the news is not all bad. Medical research shows that with a few simple lifestyle changes, age-related brain deterioration can be dramatically slowed or even reversed. Here, Kevin Dalby, professor at the University of Texas, Austin, shares ways you can not only stop the adverse effects of aging but even get smarter with age.
A study published in 2019 explains how high stiffness caused by aging causes brain stem-cell dysfunction. The researchers examined rates of various ages to understand the impact of age-related brain stiffening.
Just as muscles and joints stiffen with age and make mobility painful and slow, aging has a similar effect on our memory and cognitive abilities. There are also chemical changes in the brain as we age. We may synthesize less dopamine and serotonin. It is a natural effect of aging, but you can do things to stay as sharp as possible.
Blood flow and oxygen levels increase during physical activity. These increased blood and oxygen levels have been proven to boost cognitive performance and better heart and muscle condition. Even sitting less can offset some of the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Activities like walking, gardening, and dancing provide short-term and long-term benefits. The short-term effects of more substantial muscles and heart provide additional capacity for continuous improvement.
It is vital for both mental health and cognitive ability to be actively engaged in social and leisure activities. Support groups, church groups, and continuing education can all contribute to improved mental well-being. These activities also often require an increase in physical activities, amplifying their benefit.
Leisure activities such as games, like chess or sudoku, exercise working memory, and improve reasoning. Seniors that regularly participate in activities of this type have higher cognitive ability than those that do not.
A diet rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals has been shown to have a profound effect on cognitive ability. A lifetime of healthy eating habits is an excellent way to protect against hypertension, diabetes, and other health issues.
There are no magic pills, juices, or foods that will reverse age-related brain deterioration. Your doctor can prescribe the best medical regime, but you should do your part by eating healthy. Preferably good eating habits are adopted at an early age, but the age you are this very minute is the best time to improve your mental and physical health.
In summary, move more, think more, and eat better. Those are essential keys to improving cognitive ability, even as you age. The sooner you start improving in each of these areas, the more mental advantages you will realize over your lifetime.
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. He is researching the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Dr. Dalby’s efforts were recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health, granting him nearly $5 million to support his research.