Brain aging can be prevented. Good eating habits, regular exercise, and social relationships protect you.
Aging is not a disease nor is it a stage in which certain pathologies necessarily affect, but it is a physiological process that can occur with health. Current knowledge provided by biomedical research leads to this idea.
It is true that at this stage of life the chances of suffering from many diseases increase, but it is also true that the clinical appearance of the majority –including the dreaded dementias–, depends greatly on the person’s lifestyle.
Today we know that even when we are born with mutated genes that can predispose us to suffer from certain diseases, these only surface when we live in a certain environment and when faced with certain habits and attitudes.
The latest scientific studies have put an end to the idea that the brain ages beyond repair. Hence the enormous individual, personal and social responsibility of aging in a healthy, positive, active and productive way.
Some data obtained from studies in Biomedicine indicate that 25-30 percent of centenarians do not present significant changes in their mental capacities when compared to people 20 or 30 years younger.
In all of them, certain common characteristics stand out:
They are people who perform mental and physical exercise daily
They take care of your care and personal hygiene
They are independent, do not require help from anyone and travel alone
They are active and participatory
None are obese or smokers
Most of these people have the ability not to respond to stress with increased distress, overwhelm, or hopelessness.
How to prevent brain aging?
From these studies and experiences we can extract twelve life patterns that are key to keeping the brain in shape at any age.
1. Eat less alternatively
Being overweight is a serious risk to the health of the brain itself and the mental processes. Today we know that eating fewer calories than usual is the best treatment to slow down the brain aging process and increase life expectancy.
It is proven that providing fewer calories causes a decrease in the production of free radicals and, consequently, less damage occurs on proteins, lipids and DNA in cells.
Eating less boosts the production of new neurons in areas of the brain related to learning and memory, and activates the repair mechanisms of neuronal damage. And even more, in animal models it has been observed that the incidence of typical aging diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s decreases.
Eating less does not mean starving; A simple rule of thumb would be to eat half the calories you’ve eaten on average in the last 3-5 years one day, and reduce that same amount by just 20 percent the next day. On special days we can calmly break the norm and eat as much as we want.
2. Do aerobic physical exercise almost every day
With this exercise, oxygen is consumed as needed, without exhausting ourselves.
It protects us from the action of enzymes that produce cellular oxidation, reduces the levels of free radicals, produces energy and regenerates brain cells. In short, it slows down brain aging and even increases the brain’s repair capacity after damage caused by accidents or neurodegenerative diseases.
Exercise also increases healthy blood vessels in the brain and prevents arteriosclerosis.
3. Learn a new language from the age of 50
In addition to having the mind occupied in learning new things and keeping it alive intellectually, it needs efforts that obtain applause, reward or reinforcement from others, because it sustains its own effort.
The task that we set ourselves must excite us and be full of content.
I propose to learn a new language, because it requires applying and memorizing, which is what changes the connections of neurons. It is accompanied by the recognition of others, thereby reinforcing personal satisfaction and confidence in one’s own intellectual abilities and possibilities.
4. Traveling a lot, a very positive ‘stress’
To stay active, the brain needs stimuli and new perceptions, and travel provides them. Traveling is that “emotional sting” that begins with curiosity.
It is a “good stress” that keeps us awake and aware of something in a pleasant way. Traveling represents a physiological renewal of our brain.
5. Do not live alone, the importance of emotional ties
The relationship with others is one of the most important stimuli to maintain good mental conditions due to the social nature of the human being.
Isolation or poor social interaction leads to a situation of chronic stress and a slow and insidious deterioration of the brain areas that have to do with learning and memory.
Living with someone with whom to maintain a sustained emotional bridge over time serves as protection against certain dementias or Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Adapt to changes and new technologies
It is also important to face the novelty and consequently learn and memorize new things every day.
Staying behind means anchoring in the past and repeating and accommodating to what is already known. Adapting to social changes means “rejuvenating” the brain.
7. Eliminate stress that is accompanied by hopelessness
We live in a society that demands that everything be done quickly and efficiently, that confronts us with all kinds of pressures: social, work, family …
In any daily activity a person can receive words of accusation and displeasure, complaints or orders that he perceives as imposed or alien.
Constant stress damages the heart, blood vessels, and compromises brain function. In addition, glucocorticoids are released, hormones that damage neurons, especially in brain areas that have to do with learning and memory.
Aerobic physical exercise is a good antidote to that “bad stress” every day.
8. Do not smoke, it is always a good time to quit
Smoking increases free radicals and impairs their function, causing inflammatory reactions in brain tissue. It promotes arteriosclerosis and the occlusion of the smallest blood vessels in the brain.
Smoking can advance the age of onset of certain diseases by almost 14 years. In addition, it increases up to five times the speed with which aging reduces mental capacities; reduces life expectancy; and produces minimal and silent strokes, which add up to causing neural damage.
9. A restful sleep without artificial light
During the night we release melatonin, a powerful antioxidant from almost all cells, tissues and systems in the body. This hormone has a high capacity for night cell restoration and repair, but it is very sensitive to artificial light.
If a person wakes up and turns on the light, his secretion is suppressed and his restorative function is interrupted. Although it is true that after turning off the light, melatonin is released again, the process is so slow that its effect decreases. That is why it is so important to sleep without light interruptions.
10. Feel life to avoid emotional blackout
Recently there has been talk of cases of healthy people who, towards the age of 70, have died without being able to demonstrate any organic failure to justify it.
As if these people had reached a deep, organic, unconscious decision of not wanting to live anymore, which has led to organic failure and death. So to speak, they have lost their excitement for life, for staying alive.
Can this emotional situation be avoided? Yes, if we become aware of it. that is, if we think that the emotion that keeps us alive can be fed both from the inside and from the interaction with others.
11. Give meaning to life with gratitude
Arriving at a certain age, the value of being grateful “giving” to others is realized.
That “certain age” is the time to become aware that we must begin to walk through the world stripped of the burden of many things that were previously the source of anguish, tension and heartache. Of true help and detachment towards others.
Giving generous time to those who need it, making contributions of all kinds to aid projects … all this enriches this period of life and gives us the applause and gratitude of others, so necessary to justify staying alive.
12. The happiness of little things
And reach, at the end, without anguish or needs, that happiness of the little things. The happiness of receiving a smile full of affection, which comes from the contemplative, from tolerance and from the absence of competitive pleasures.
That happiness that comes after saying goodbye to the innumerable daily “masters” who have gripped us in other times past.