Many people believe that the impact of aging on the brain is something that cannot be prevented. However, certain lifestyle behaviors can have a significant effect on how well a person ages, even if they are in their 50s or beyond. Activities such as learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, engaging in aerobic exercise, and forming meaningful social relationships can positively impact the brain.
Cognitive Decline and the Aging Process
As a person ages, toxins such as tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques accumulate in the brain, leading to cognitive decline associated with the aging process. Stress, neurotoxins, and a lack of quality sleep can speed up this process.
Encouraging Resilient Aging
The key to resilient aging is to improve neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. Neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memories, as adults respond to and store new experiences every day. The more new experiences a person has, the more likely they are to encourage neurogenesis.
The following are three ways to encourage resilient aging and activate neurogenesis in the brain:
Raise your heart rate
Aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking has a positive impact on neurogenesis. Aim to engage in aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week and choose outdoor environments, such as parks or natural landscapes, over busy roads to avoid reducing brain-derived neurotrophic factor production. Social sports and activities, such as team sports or table tennis, can also increase neurogenesis and improve hand-eye coordination, leading to structural changes in the brain that offer cognitive benefits.
Adjust eating patterns
Calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and time-restricted eating can encourage neurogenesis in humans. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders. Reducing refined sugar and following fasting patterns, such as 24-hour water-only fasts, can also increase longevity and encourage neurogenesis.
Get enough sleep
Sleep promotes the brain's glymphatic system, which flushes out age-related toxins, and helps to prevent memory deficits. Aim for 7–9 hours of sleep, and consider mindfulness or yoga before bed to improve sleep quality. Having consistent sleep patterns and sufficient quality and length of sleep supports brain resilience over time.
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