Many ask how can I age gracefully? In recent years, scientific research has explored the secrets of those in their 80s and 90s whose brains function well — by some measures, as well as the minds of people many years younger.
Researchers now call these high-functioning older people “super-agers,” and they’re learning more about what makes them special. Some factors are genetic, but many are things that we can control.
Money Talks News’s recent article entitled “5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’” gives us five things you can do to keep your aging brain sharp. These five things contribute to answering the question how can I age gracefully.
- Stay positive. It may be cliche but staying positive is important. In addition, stress associated with a negative outlook seems to initiate significant changes in our bodies that can speed up aging, by causing cell damage.
Elissa Epel of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center at the University of California San Francisco says, “What’s emerged is how much our mental filter — how we see the world — determines our reality and how much we will suffer when we find ourselves in difficult situations in life.”
- Stay in good company. Loneliness and isolation can create physically damaging stress, so stay in contact with friends.
- Get in shape. One of the better-understood aspects of aging well is the importance of sleep, exercise and diet. The UCSF researchers have seen physical evidence in the brain that higher levels of exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet make people more resilient to aging. It also keeps us thinking faster and more clearly.
“As we get older, when we see declines in memory and other skills, people tend to think that’s part of normal aging,” says a UCSF blog post. “It’s not. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Some foods are also better for your brain health as you get older, such as whole berries and fresh vegetables.
- Try some meditation. The researchers conducted an experiment, where they placed about 24 people in a month-long intensive meditation retreat. They monitored personality traits, anxiety, depression and some microscopic physical markers tied to mental and physical age called “telomeres.” These are caps at the end of chromosomes. They shorten naturally as we age. Shorter telomeres in midlife can predict an early onset of heart disease, dementia, some cancers and other age-related illnesses.
According to the UCSF, “At the end of the retreat, the participants’ telomere length had increased significantly, and participants with the highest initial levels of anxiety and depression showed the most dramatic changes over the course of the study.”
- Try something new. That may be a new hobby or reading a good book. Research shows that there are clear cognitive benefits to exploring new things. Research even found that video games don’t actually rot your brain — they preserve it!
Studies also suggested solving word and number puzzles can delay the memory loss linked to dementia by more than 2½ years and can even preserve memory and cognitive function better than some medications. So never stop learning — or playing and become a “Super-Ager”!
Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 11, 2020) “5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’”