Anti aging guide

Aging of the Brain



What happens to the brain during aging

Aging of the brain happens to all of us irrespective of how healthy we are. If we are unhealthy, however, the process is swifter.

The claws of time destroy our senses too. Loss of even a minor amount of hearing or vision will put extra pressure on the other senses to work flat out in order to pump suitable information to the brain.

We need to adapt to this loss and make the necessary changes. For example, if you are a 50 year old, don’t insist on having the same mental pressure as a 20 year old. Adapt your lifestyle to allow more time for decision-making tasks, driving routine or demands on your memory.

Mark Twain joked that ‘Being old is no different from being young, as long as you are sitting down.’ We should probably paraphrase this and say that being old is no different from being young as long as you allow yourself more time. Think about this and apply it to your everyday life.

Our brain tissues, chemicals and thinking processes change throughout our life, some for better, some for worse. Specialists who have studied the biology of the brain have found that in older people’s brains there is an increased amount of biological junk, called ‘senile plaques’ and ‘neuro-fibrillary tangles’. The amount of this material increases as the years go by and it becomes particularly abundant in the brains of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia. Is this material the cause of dementia or is it a result of it? The jury is still out on this one.

Lipofuscin is a distinctive age-related junk material which accumulates inside the brain cells, affecting memory and other brain processes. This material is related to damage caused by free radicals, and scientists believe that it may cause cells to malfunction.

While you were reading these last few paragraphs, you’ll probably have lost several dozen brain cells. Thousands of our brain cells perish every day, but this is not as many as was once believed. The good news is that only some areas of the brain suffer this loss. In other areas there is almost no change at all.

Our brain cells die from a natural process called apoptosis, meaning that their death is orderly and controlled by the organism. Dead brain cells are removed tidily and the remaining cells are able to form new connections to try and compensate for the loss.

The ability to form new connections plays an essential role in maintaining our brain in fine shape. As an example, think of a company employing 100 workers. When two or three of these workers leave their job, the rest will have the ability to cover for them and the ultimate efficiency of the company will remain unaffected. If, later on, another two or three leave, the rest will still be able to cope effectively. And so on, up to a point. However, if they all left at once, the rest would be running around like headless chickens.

This important ability to compensate for lost brain cells disappears in very old people and in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia. Fewer connections between brain cells means less brain function. In many experiments, scientists have showed that people who started mental exercises while young and who continued through to old age have a good chance of maintaining a healthy brain by stimulating the formation of new connections between the cells.

On the other hand, research evidence also suggests that a boring environment can accelerate the loss of connections between brain cells and reduce the formation of new ones. During experiments, rats which were kept in boring and monotonous environments had a very low ability to form new connections in their brain. When similar rats were moved into new cages with slides, ramps, different colors, etc – the rat equivalent of Disneyland – they developed new interests, lost excess weight and their brains cells sprouted new connections.

This means that we need to help our brain help itself by keeping it stimulated, avoiding constant and prolonged routine and by performing brain exercises.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - February 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm