While it may not be possible to completely age-proof our brains, a brave new world of anti-aging research shows that our gray matter may be far more flexible than we thought.
The brain has often been called the three-pound universe. It’s our most powerful and mysterious organ, the seat of the self, laced with as many billions of neurons as the galaxy has stars. No wonder the mere notion of aging, the failing brain and the prospect of memory loss, confusion, and the unraveling of our personality is so terrifying. About a third of all people age 60 and over have recall problems that are noticeable to them and are measurable with testing. At least a quarter of people age 85 and up suffer from dementia – loss of memory and cognitive function and an inability to understand words, carry out motor activities, and recognize or identify objects.
Yet the degeneration of the brain is far from inevitable. “Its design features are such that it should continue to function for a lifetime,” says Zaven Khachaturian, Ph.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute. “There is no reason to expect it to deteriorate with age, even though many of us are living longer lives.” In fact, scientists’ view of the brain’s potential is rapidly changing according to Sanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D. Thirty-five years ago we thought Alzheimer’s disease was a dramatic version of normal aging. Now we realize it’s a disease with a distinct pathology. In fact, some people simply don’t experience any mental decline, so we have begun to study them.”
So what’s the secret to keeping our brains agile and fit? Activity and exercise, lung function, and feelings of self-sufficiency and being surrounded by family and friends. See Psychology Today and related links about the foundation and cornerstones of Successful Aging.