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5 Ways to Keep Your Aging Brain Sharp

5 Ways to Keep Your Aging Brain SharpPhoto by goodluz /

When people talk about “aging gracefully,” they’re usually referring to physical appearance. But you can also have a gracefully aging mind.

Recent scientific research has delved into the secrets of people in their 80s and 90s whose brains function well — by some measures, as well as the minds of people decades younger.

Researchers have started calling these high-functioning older people “super-agers,” and we’re learning more about what sets them apart. While some factors are genetic, many are things within our control.

Following are five things you can do to keep your aging brain sharp.

1. Stay positive

If you don’t think you can have any impact on your mental age, you aren’t going to take steps to try to impact the health of your mind. Although it sounds like a cliche, staying positive is important.

“We hold these tremendously negative stereotypes about aging, and these start from when we’re really young. By the time we’re older, these are actually having a negative effect on our health,” says Elissa Epel, co-director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), in a university blog post.

In addition, stress associated with a negative outlook seems to trigger real changes in our bodies that can accelerate aging by causing cell damage.

“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,” Epel says.

2. Keep good company

Loneliness and isolation cause a lot of physically damaging stress. So, make it a priority to keep in touch with friends, whether you prefer a wide circle of acquaintances or a few intimate relationships.

Emily Rogalski, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University doing research on super-agers, says in a Northwestern blog post that one of the distinctive things about “individuals who are free of dementia, and really thriving in their community” is their endorsement of “stronger positive relationships with others.”

3. Stay in shape

One of the better-understood aspects of aging well is the importance of sleep, exercise and diet.

Epel and fellow UCSF researchers Saul Villeda and Joel Kramer have seen physical evidence in the brain that higher levels of exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet make us more resilient to aging and keep 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,” Kramer says in the UCSF blog post. “It’s not. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

That’s backed up by research previously reported by Money Talks News showing that aerobic exercise and resistance training both improve cognitive abilities regardless of frequency and that obesity has the opposite effect.

Certain foods are also better for your brain health as you age, including whole berries and fresh vegetables.

And studies have also shown that high blood pressure can contribute to memory loss and that smokers have a greater risk of cognitive decline. Mind and body are clearly linked.

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