6 Ways to Keep Your Brain Young
Ask someone how old they are and they’ll surely give you the number of years they’ve been alive. Ask them how old they ‘feel’ and they’ll give a different answer, either much younger or older possibly depending on how their day’s going. We could also look at our age as expected years remaining. By this measure, a 65-year-old woman ≈ 60-year-old man. Then there’s our biological age (sometimes called functional age), which can only be determined in the lab, despite what your smartwatch tells you. Although, there are certainly 60 somethings with the cardiovascular fitness of the average 20 or 30 something.
Now neuroscientists have come up with a new indicator of a person's age, which they call “brain predicted age”. Your brain-predicted age has nothing to do with your IQ or EQ. It does have to do with the physiological health of your brain. In looking at brain health, scientists want to understand how some individuals retain enough mental function to live a long and fulfilling life, while many others lose their independence, sometimes their very essence in the last years even decades of life.
To me, it seems like common sense to care about how my brain is aging because I would like to be able to keep taking pleasure in life and keep finding new things that bring me joy and meaning for as long as I can. Maybe 80 will soon be the new 60! And if I get to 80 or 100-years of age, I’d like to know I’m there. Wouldn’t you?
What Happens to our Brains as we Age?
While brain aging is inevitable, it affects every brain differently and at different ages. Sadly, dementia is prevalent in one form or another; however, we all know someone who’s in their 90s and mentally sharp.
First, the not-so-good things
Brain volume (particularly the frontal cortex) declines over time and the decline is more significant after 60 or 70. White matter develops lesions, which affects executive functions such as planning, remembering instructions, and successfully juggling multiple tasks. Working memory, or the ability to hold a piece of information in the mind, also suffers. So it’s harder to recall names, where the car is parked, or phone numbers (if you had…