Biologically, the volume of the brain shrinks by about five percent per decade after the age of 40. However, what might be lost in terms of cognitive alertness and memory is made up for in terms of wisdom and a wealth of life experiences which help with decision making, creative thinking and reasoning.
There is unfortunately no silver bullet to reverse or stop the effects of ageing. However, making small changes to your regular behaviour can help slow down or delay some of the effects of old age, helping you to age in a successful way.
Maintaining a lifestyle which involves good nutrition, regular exercise, cognitive stimulation and positive, rewarding relationships with others will all help prevent cognitive decline, and promote increased brain agility. These choices are not exclusively for the older population – by changing your lifestyle earlier in life you can help reduce the impact of cognitive decline and stave off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, so it is never too early to start.
- There is considerable evidence that a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables nuts, whole grains, oils and fresh fish will help keep the brain sharp in old age. According to research there are much lower rates of cognitive decline in Mediterranean countries where the diet is based on these staple foods.
- Exercise is a great way of keeping the brain focused and maintaining the stimulation of brain cell growth. Aim to do about 150 mins of aerobic exercise each week to help prevent the degeneration of your brain cells.
- There is evidence that maintaining an active social life with friends or regular interaction with neighbours or colleagues will help protect against Alzheimer’s. We are social beings and being part of a supportive network will literally help keep our brain at its peak for longer.
- Sleep should not be underestimated when it comes to maintaining cognitive function. Whilst we sleep our glymphatic system cleans our brains of neurotoxins, including beta amyloid, the one found most commonly in Alzheimer’s patients. Not prioritising sleep in younger years can lead to neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s later in life. For more information on sleeping better, please see the Rest section.
Other Information and Advice
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A Mediterranean diet could prevent the brain shrinking in old age and help prevent cognitive decline.
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