You probably think that aging inevitably affects the brain’s functioning, and you are powerless to change the situation. This is not entirely true. Yes, you cannot turn back the clock and improve your level of intelligence and education. But lifestyle also influences mental clarity in old age. It didn’t matter when you started sticking to it – at 30 or 50.
Over time, toxins accumulate in the brain – tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques. Their appearance is correlated with the onset of aging and a decline in cognitive functions. This is a natural process, but many factors exacerbate the situation and speed it up—for example, stress and neurotoxins – alcohol, qualitative, and quantitative lack of sleep.
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The feature of the brain that makes it possible for it to develop throughout life is called neuroplasticity. It has three mechanisms: synaptic communication, myelination, and neurogenesis. For healthy aging, neurogenesis is most important, which is responsible for the birth of new neurons. In people of mature age, this process is no longer going and in infants and children.
The formation of new neurons in adults occurs in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for memory storage. Every day we react to new experiences and accumulate them, and during sleep, they are fixed. Therefore, the more new things in our life – actions, people, places, and emotions – the more we stimulate the process of neurogenesis.
How to help your brain stay young
1. Make your heart beat faster
Running or brisk walking are examples of aerobic activity that have a good impact on neurogenesis. A study in 2016, which was conducted on rats, showed that endurance exercises – high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance exercise – give the best effect. Although other types of physical activity also have benefits.
Try to devote 2.5 hours a week to cardio. It is better to exercise in a park or a gym. Avoid busy roads; air pollution suppresses the brain’s neurotrophic factor – it stimulates the growth of nerve cells. So there will be a little benefit under these conditions.
If playing alone is not for you, consider team sports—for example, table tennis. Social interaction also has a positive effect on neurogenesis. Moreover, in table tennis, you develop hand-eye coordination. The brain’s structural alterations as a result of this, and they lead to several cognitive benefits.
So, experiments have confirmed that the development of coordination and socialization simultaneously increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex in those parts of it that are associated with social and emotional well-being. But it becomes essential with age.
2. Change your eating habits
Calorie restriction proven to and time when to eat and intermittent fasting contribute to neurogenesis. A study in rodents has shown that intermittent fasting improves cognitive function and brain structure. Also, it reduces the symptoms of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
Cutting back on sugar in the diet helps reduce the negative impact of oxidative processes in brain cells. As a result, there is a much lower chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. Fasting on the water for a day has also been shown to improve brain function and stimulate neurogenesis.
Speak with your doctor and try one of the following.
- Once a month, carry out a one-day fast.
- Eat 50-60% fewer calories two days a week. Do this for two to three months or on an ongoing basis.
- Eat 20% fewer calories each day for two weeks. Conduct such courses three to four times a year.
- Determine the period when you are allowed to eat: for example, from 8 am to 8 pm or from noon to 8 pm.
3. Pay special attention to sleep
Sleep stimulates the cleansing of the brain by the lymphatic system. It removes accumulations of toxins – tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques, which were mentioned above. Also, if a person does not sleep enough, his memory deteriorates.
Researchers claim that one night of wakefulness takes away several points of your IQ. Therefore, try to sleep 7-9 hours and not give up the afternoon siesta if you need it.
Of course, the need for sleep is individual. Here’s how to determine what has to be changed. If you naturally wake up on weekends simultaneously as on weekdays, chances are everything is fine. If you spend a lot of time in bed or sleep a lot during the day, then there is a high probability that something is wrong here.
Try to practice yoga Nidra in the evenings or the practice of mindful relaxation. Scientists have established that it improves the quality of sleep. There are many videos on the Internet with which you can start practicing.
Pick any action from the above and start working diligently with it until it becomes a habit. Then proceed to the following, and so on. You will find that you will feel healthier within a year, more energized and more motivated than you do now even though you’ll be a year older.
Adapted and translated by The Cop Cart Staff
Sources: Life hacker