Aging and a Healthy Brain
No matter what our current age, we all want to have a healthy body and a healthy mind as we get older. There is not much pleasure in living a long life if our final years are spent in pain and if we lose our ability to think and remember. As much as we dread suffering physical pain and illness in old age, many of us fear even more the prospect of losing our mental capacities.
We know that some people are able to live into their eighth and ninth decades still mentally sharp and physically spry. What are our chances of staying mentally alert and physically active in old age? Is it all a matter of random luck? Is losing our mental powers as we age inevitable?
The good news is that statistically the odds are on your side. Most people are able to keep their cognitive faculties as they age unless they develop Alzheimer.'s disease, or diabetes. As long as the brain itself remains healthy, older people can maintain their ability to think and remember, although processing may take longer than it used to. Seniors are actually able to outperform much younger people in certain kinds of mental skills.
Many subtle, but cumulative physical changes occur in our brains as we live and grow older. Some of these changes start before we are born, and some become most noticeable as we enter the fifth or sixth decade of life.
If you - - ve ever heard that the brain shrinks as we grow older, it.'s not just a myth. It.'s literally true. Brain cells die steadily throughout life without being replaced, and the brain loses mass as we age. It appears that neurons themselves actually shrink, and our unused brain circuit pathways are trimmed back in favor of creating ''super highways'' to accommodate the type of thinking our brain does most. Men.'s brains seem to shrink somewhat faster than the brains of women.
The good news for all of us is that although we may lose millions of neurons and synapses each year, this does not necessarily lead to diminishment of our overall thinking capacity unless the loss is concentrated in certain areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus or critical parts of the neocortex.
Scientists have discovered that our ability to think and remember is preserved in spite of brain cell death, as long as the brain is able to create new connections by growing more dendrites and producing neurotransmitters.
One way to keep producing new dendrites and new connections is to keep using your brain--keep on learning new skills and develop new interests throughout your life. If you treasure your brain, do yourself a favor and keep using it!
About the author:
This article is taken from the new downloadable book by Royane Real titled "How to Be Smarter 'Use Your Brain to Learn Faster, Remember Better and Be More Creative".
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