‘SuperAgers’ Have Better Brains


In CNN Health article, Sandee LaMotte, writes that as we grow older our brain shrinks. “In SuperAgers, however, studies have shown the cortex, responsible for thinking, decision-making and memory, remains much thicker and shrinks more slowly than those in their 50s and 60s.”

The Northwestern Medicine defines SuperAgers as “someone age 80 or older who exhibits cognitive function that is comparable to an average person who is middle-aged”.

Emily Rogalski, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School, told CNN in an earlier interview, “SuperAgers are required to have outstanding episodic memory — the ability to recall everyday events and past personal experiences — but then SuperAgers just need to have at least average performance on the other cognitive tests. It’s important to point out when we compare the SuperAgers to the average agers, they have similar levels of IQ, so the differences we’re seeing are not just due to intelligence.”

SuperAgers Have Better Brains

Quoting a study published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, CNN Health writes that the SuperAgers in their 80s who have brains as sharp as those 30 years younger.

Bryan Strange, director of the Laboratory for Clinical Neuroscience at the Technical University of Madrid, and the senior author of the study, told CNN in a statement, “Though superagers report similar activity levels to typical older people, it’s possible they do more physically demanding activities like gardening or stair climbing. From lower blood pressure and obesity levels to increased blood flow to the brain, there are many direct and indirect benefits of being physically active that may contribute to improved cognitive abilities in old age.”

Common habits of SuperAgers

The Northwestern medicine lists the following four habits of the SuperAgers:

  1. SuperAgers live an active lifestyle.Staying active is one of the best things you can do as you age. Even exercising twice a week will help lower your chances of getting the disease later in life. Physical activity results in increased oxygen intake, which helps your body perform optimally. Exercise helps your heart, and muscle-strengthening exercises specifically reduce the risk for falls.
  2. SuperAgers continue to challenge themselves. “Mental activity can be just as important as physical activity. Try reading an article on a subject with which you’re unfamiliar, or take classes that put you outside your comfort zone. These will help stimulate and engage the brain in new ways.
  3. SuperAgers are social butterflies. “SuperAgers tend to report strong social relationships with others. o support this, the attention region deep in the brain is larger in SuperAgers.
  4. SuperAgers indulge. “SuperAgers span individuals who are fitness buffs and those who indulge in a nightcap every evening. They also indulged in an occasional glass of alcohol; people who drink moderately were 23% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or signs of memory problems than those who don’t drink alcohol. The key here is moderation.

Mark Milstein writes in the CNBC Make It that SuperAgers learn something new everyday. According to a study, “even if individuals had lower levels of education, if they attended lectures, read, wrote and read often, they had memory scores on par with those with more education”.

Milstein reminds us that our brain can be ‘cross-trained‘. Similar to exercising, learning new languages can help train different parts of the brains. “You can cross-train your brain by mixing mental and physical learning activities.”

Harvard Health suggests, in addition to being social and active, eating “superfoods” that are rich in antioxidants, and foods containing polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and specific vitamins and minerals help reduce “reduce inflammation and protect cells from disease-causing damage”. Common such foods include, berries, whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, barley), fatty fish (salmon, trout), nuts (walnuit, almonds, pecans), olive oil, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower), avocados, and green tea.

This previous note contains additional details about most nutritious foods.

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