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How to become a super senior? Discover 5 habits from this group and protect your brain


These individuals are known to live into their 90s with preserved memory and cognitive abilities.




Individuals known as “super elderly” prove that, for some, age really is just a number. “Super-elderly people are known to maintain peak mental capacity well into their 90s and avoid diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” says Daniel Daneshvar, chief of the Division of Brain Injury Rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “Although the general thinking is that memory declines and brain function declines as we grow oldStudies of super-elderly adults suggest that this is not inevitable and that there may be ways to maintain high levels of cognitive function much longer in life.”

The aging of the brain

OR brain average decreases in volume and weight of approximately 5% per decade after age 40, with a steeper decline after age 70. The brain’s shrinkage particularly affects regions involved in learning and memory, such as the frontal lobe and hippocampus. A smaller brain volume is also linked to less robust communication between brain regions, which leads to slower processing speed and can impair other cognitive functions.

“These age-related brain changes can affect thinking and make it difficult to remember words and names, concentrate on tasks, and process new information,” says Daneshvar.

The brains of super old people, however, shrink at about half the average rate, and their memory and cognitive abilities remain on par with those of a younger brain. What happens in the brains of super-elderly people that justifies this? Harvard researchers, in a publication in the November 2021 edition of Cerebral Cortex, offer a clue.

They recruited 40 seniors identified as super seniors. The super seniors took a memory test while their brains were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows activity in different brain areas. For comparison, the researchers also performed memory tests and fMRI scans on 41 young adults (average age 25). Super-elderly adults performed similarly to younger adults on memory tests. The fMRI also showed that activity in the super-elderly visual cortex, the area of ​​the brain that processes visual input, was similar to that of younger brains.

What’s so “super” about super-elderly people?

Studies have found that the genetics It is the most significant component in the aging state of the brain.

“Science has identified about 100 genes that are common among the super-elderly, although it is not clear which of them are particularly linked to neurological benefits,” explains Daneshvar. “If you win the lottery and are born with these genes, you have a good chance of becoming super old.”

But what if your genetic scratch card doesn’t win? Is it still possible to be successful in superaging?

“Even super-old people tend to follow a healthy lifestyle, and many reach their 90s without problems such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension,” says Daneshvar.

Here’s a look at the healthy daily habits of many super seniors and how they can help protect the brain.

1- Eat more “superfoods”

Many super seniors eat diets rich in foods rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients have been linked to fighting inflammation and protecting the body from disease-causing cell damage. Examples include berries, whole grains (oats, quinoa), fatty fish (salmon, trout), nuts (walnuts, almonds), olive oil, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), avocado and green tea.

Not surprisingly, these foods are key in many plant-based diets linked to brain and heart health, such as the MIND, DASH, and Mediterranean diets. There’s no telling what foods or quantities are ideal, so focus on meals that contain a variety.

2- Be more active

Super-elderly people tend to engage in more physical activities. Regular exercise appears to help maintain brain volume and cognitive function, even if you start later in life.

Exercise causes physiological changes in the body, such as the production of growth factors, substances that improve the function and survival of brain cells and can actually stimulate the formation of new brain cells. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in people who exercise than in those who do not exercise.

It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do. Research has found that walking, swimming, other aerobic activities (particularly high-intensity interval training, or HIIT), weight training, tai chi, and yoga are all associated with improved memory. But consistency is key. “Being active regularly leads to greater benefits for the brain,” reports Daneshvar.

3- Be more sociable

Super old people tend to have more social interactions. Studies have shown that regular social engagement is associated with a healthier brain. The opposite is also true: Social isolation is linked to a smaller volume of gray matter in brain regions linked to cognition.

4- Challenge yourself

Super seniors challenge their brains, and studies have shown that learning new things as you get older helps with memory. For example: studying a second language, learning a musical instrument or taking up a new hobby.

5- Sleep well

Even the super elderly prioritize sleep: Guidelines suggest seven to nine hours a night. “During sleep, the brain eliminates metabolic waste products that accumulate in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease development,” says Daneshvar.

A study published in the November 2022 issue of the journal Sleep found that having trouble falling or staying asleep three or more nights a week for three months increases the risk of worsening memory in older adults.

©Copyright 2024 by Harvard University. For more information see https://www.health.harvard.edu/ Distributed by The New York Times Licensing Group

This content was translated with the help of artificial intelligence tools and reviewed by our editorial team. Find out more in our Artificial Intelligence Policy.

Source: Terra

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