As we age, many things happen to us, both good and bad. The good? Wisdom, better sense of self, increased confidence. The bad? Changes in brain health. Throughout our lifetime, our brain changes more than any other part of our body. Its structures and functions are always adapting, and networks and pathways are connecting and severing. In the first several years of life, a child’s brain forms more than one million new neural connections every second. The size of the brain increases fourfold when the child is in preschool, and by age 6, reaches around 90 percent of adult volume. The frontal lobe, which is the area of the brain that is responsible for executive functions like planning and impulse control, is the last area of the brain to develop and mature, and it may not even be fully developed until you are 35 years old.
When we age, certain systems in our body gradually decline, including the brain. Forgetting things like names and numbers is much more common as we age. Oftentimes, we think that forgetting things, especially if we are getting up there in age, could be tied to early onset Alzheimer’s. That is not exactly the case, because Alzheimer’s disease is not part of the natural aging process (Nichols, 2017).
Some normal memory changes that come with aging include:
- Multitasking: Planning multiple tasks at once can be a bit more difficult
- Learning something new: Committing new information to memory can take longer
- Remembering names and numbers: Recalling things like names and numbers gets more challenging, because strategic memory starts to decline at age 20
Even right now, scientists are still researching the changes that occur during brain aging. So far, they have found that the brain mass changes, specifically, shrinkage in the frontal lobe and hippocampus. These are the areas of the brain that are responsible for higher cognitive function and encoding new memories. This shrinkage starts between 60-70 years old. They have also found out that there are changes in a person’s neurotransmitter system. As it ages, the brain generates less chemical messengers, and it is this decrease in dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, that plays a role in declining cognition and memory problems.
Here are some tips you can use to increase brain health and memory:
Eat the right foods: The foods that you eat (and don’t eat), play a crucial role in your memory. Fresh vegetables are essential, and so are healthy fats. For example, curry, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts contain antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain health and may even stimulate the production of new brain cells. Also, increasing your omega-3 fat intake and reducing consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (processed vegetable oil) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, is also important. Coconut oil is also a great healthy fat for brain function. Just two tablespoons of coconut oil would give you the equivalent of 20 grams of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which is helpful in preventing degenerative neurological diseases.
Exercise: Exercise lets your brain work at optimum capacity by stimulating nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections, and protecting them from damage. During exercise, nerve cells release proteins called neurotrophic factors. One of these neurotrophic factors, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and benefits cognitive function.
Get enough sleep: Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Did you know that just one night of sleeping only 4-6 hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day? The process of brain growth is called neuroplasticity, and is believed to underlie your brain’s capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. Plasticity occurs when neurons are stimulated by events or information from the environment. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes that may be important for the health of your synapses. Research shows that chronic lack of sleep, or even getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. So though our lives are busier than ever, we need to get as much good quality sleep as we can. Try shutting off your phone and the TV, and just enjoy the peace and quiet that the evening brings (Mercola, 2014).
In addition to these practices, a quality brain health supplement can help. Kyolic has a trio of brain health supplements that can aid in healthy brain function, overall focus, and brain performance.* Kyolic Brain Memory contains Aged Garlic Extract, Eleuthero Extract and Ginkgo Biloba Extract, and is designed to support healthy brain function and memory.* Kyolic Brain Focus contains 120 mg of Ginkgo Biloba Extract per caplet to help improve circulation in the brain, stay sharp and aid in overall focus.* Last but not least, Kyolic Brain Energy contains Aged Garlic Extract, Vitamin K1, Bacopa Monnieri Extract and Cognizen® Citicoline for optimal brain performance.*
Another quick tip is to try crosswords and Sudoku in your spare time, because memory games like these keep you sharp and improve your mental fitness. Start focusing on your brain health now, and you can preserve your mental abilities and quality of life as you advance from adulthood to your senior years.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.