Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “The older you get, the wiser you are!” Well, as we progress through life, there is no doubt that we gain knowledge and increase our cognition (mental intellect/function) by attending school, reading books, having a career, or life experiences that shape who we are and our perception of our surroundings. Nevertheless, it’s inevitable that we cannot avoid the natural process of aging physically, as well as mentally. Unfortunately, plastic surgery cannot fix our aging brains!
Our brains begin to age the minute after we’re born. Getting older directly impacts our physique, along with the way our brain functions. There are certain areas of our brain that age quicker than other parts, including the
prefrontal cortex (In charge of thinking and thought) and the hippocampus (Memory, learning and emotion). Both of these areas are attributed to our memory, learning, planning, and other essential, complex functions. Everyone ages differently, and some experience a steeper decline in cognitive aging versus other people of a similar age. Cognitive aging is the change in mental function as we get older.
Additional changes in the aging brain include:
- Changes in neuron and neurotransmitter communication between neurons
- Reduced blood flow within the brain due to narrowed vessels
- Inflammation (due to injury)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
Aging and its effects on the brain are not all doom and gloom, and getting older doesn’t mean that you will definitely experience a decline in your cognitive ability. Some people in their older age have been able to maintain their “sharpness,” and this is called “cognitive reserve.” Cognitive reserve reflects the brain’s ability to operate effectively despite disruption within functionality, or it refers to the amount of damage that the brain can sustain before changes in cognition are evident.
While brain functionality is out of our control for the most part, there are certain steps we can take to help maintain an active and healthy brain. Differences in brain functionality can be attributed to things such as:
- Alcohol intake and medication use
- Participating in cognitive or challenging brain activities
Exercising is good for our heart and for our physical well-being, and exercising our brain is equally as important, too!
We have added many links below regarding the aging brain. The links are easy to read, understand, and actually quite interesting.