Brain Aging Is Not Necessarily Inevitable Or Unpreventable
As a follow-up to the previous post on What Leaders Should Know About Their Aging Brains, here is some research on what leaders can do to protect the long-term health of their brains and reduce the natural brain aging process.
Scientists continue to identify factors that speed up brain aging. Not surprising, the usual culprits of being overweight, poor diet, lack of physical activity, social isolation, poor sleep patterns, and stress tend to head the list.
For example, one study showed obesity in midlife may accelerate brain aging by approximately ten years. Other studies have identified sugar, soft drinks, and diet sodas to be connected with speeding up brain age, smaller overall brain volume, poor episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus.
In another study, this one from researchers at the University of California San Diego, major stressful life events such as divorce or the death of a loved one may actually accelerate aging in the brain. This study focused on the cerebral cortex region of the brain and used MRI scans to examine the volume and cortical thickness in the brains of the 359 participants.
All of the participants had experienced life-changing events within the previous two years and had undergone previous MRI measurements five years earlier as part of a longer-term study. These measurements were analyzed with software capable of determining brain age. The results showed premature aging in brain cells, faulty immune system response, and some genomic changes not seen in the participants who had not experienced significant life-changing events during the previous 24 months.
Researchers are gleaning hope from the variations in which brains age. The hope is that this is an indication that cognitive decline strictly as a result of aging might not be inevitable.
Previously, the increase in cognitive decline in the general population was viewed as a result of people living longer. This was probably partially true. But the fact that it is not necessarily inevitable or unpreventable has research scientists around the world excitedly studying how to keep our brains young and functioning throughout our elderly years.
Additionally, when it comes to the brain the old saying of “use it or lose it” is quite applicable. The best preventative medicine for age-related cognitive decline is to interact frequently with other people, stay active, eat a healthy diet, refrain from smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation.
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.”