The older we get, the more difficult it is to maintain your cognitive abilities and make your brain healthy. The brain is constantly changing and adapting itself to its environment. So if your brain is saturated with information and stimulus, it will learn to “let go” of unnecessary details or synapses. This process is called synaptic pruning. It’s a well-known fact that this process goes on until we reach our mid-20s. And, after that, it slows down significantly. It is important to better understand this age-related biological phenomenon. So, let’s look at the reasons that age the brain early and how to make your brain healthy.
The neurosynaptic network within each one of us can be compared to an internal Internet. The connections between neurons (neurosynaptic links) have either a strong weight (“well used”), lightweight (“occasional use”), or even become obsolete (use less frequently). To stay your mind sharp, you need to understand how your brain learns and adapts.
Brain cells (neurons) communicate by a special kind of neurotransmitter called glutamate. These neurosynaptic links are created, strengthened, or weakened utilizing the glutamate concentration signals. The effect is that more frequently used connections become stronger while less frequently used ones fade away in time. A new neuron can grow and connect to another neuron only if such a synapse exists between them. This will strengthen their relationship.
Suppose you want to learn something new every day, for example. In that case, you must create many strong, new synaptic links around this specific information you wish to remember. Along with other neurons that hold related information. In addition, these new links to be stronger than those representing you are looking for ways to improve your memory and make your brain healthy. The first step is to understand the reasons that age the brain early and then how to make your brain healthy.
Why does our brain decline with age? What are the reasons that age the brain early?
Here is a list of the most common reasons that age the brain early:
Smoking and drinking alcohol.
Many studies have shown that smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol affects the brain. It is one of the reasons that age the brain early. Alcohol changes how your brain develops. And it can age your brain at an early stage. There is no safe level of drinking when it comes to how alcohol affects your intelligence in the long term. So try not to drink too much.
It has been shown that a couple of drinks a day could be good for your health, but this only lasts for short periods (15 minutes). If you have more than 2-3 drinks every day or week, you are probably doing more harm than good.
Studies show that obesity is one of the many reasons that age the brain early. It is a risk factor for developing problems with thinking skills, memory, attention, naming things, and planning abilities like working memory and multitasking. It ages the brain fast because of the features of obesity – the high level of insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
People who have problems concentrating, sleep cycle, and appetite due to imbalanced neurotransmitter levels caused by mental health conditions are at risk of gaining weight fast. This puts you at a higher risk of getting heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer, etc. Over time if nothing is done about it.
Lack of physical activity.
A lack of physical activity is also a risk factor for developing thinking skills, memory, attention, etc. It is some of the many reasons that age the brain early.
You hear a lot about the adverse side effects of stress on your health. But it can also affect your brain in terms of aging at an early stage. This may be causing cortisol to be released too much over time.
Poor sleeping habits.
Research shows that people who sleep poorly are more likely to develop dementia later in life than people who sleep between 7-9 hours per night. It ages the brain fast because you don’t get enough deep sleep which causes damage via proteins like beta amoid. The same protein that forms in Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of social network and engagement with other people.
Studies show that not having a life purpose, lack of friends and family support, lack of social network are risk factors for developing thinking skills, memory, etc. It ages the brain fast because it makes you feel lonely. It causes stress on your nervous system, releasing cortisol (stress hormone) over time. This damages your neurons and makes them age at an early stage. Working as a janitor can affect your thinking. It is because you don’t have a social life where you meet with people with different points of view. Communicating with others is crucial to mental health.
A study shows that bipolar disorder affects around 1% of the total population. It has been known to age the brain fast due to the stress it causes on one’s nervous system. This can be leading to high cortisol levels in the blood over time.
Chronic pain or fatigue.
People who suffer from chronic pain and fatigue are at risk of developing thinking skills, memory, etc. They don’t have enough rest and deal with their problems by themselves for a long time without talking to anyone about them. This could be very helpful. This makes their brains age at an early stage and damage over time because of the negative effects on their neuronal activity.
Studies show that anxiety disorders affect around 8% of people all over the world. If you start having anxiety attacks, it is crucial to treat them before they become anxiety disorders because anxiety disorders can age your brain at an early stage and cause damage in the long term.
Studies sindicate that depression is a risk issue for developing problems with thinking, memory, etc. It ages the brain fast because when you have low serotonin levels. It causes aging in your neurons. All this can be leading to not regulating emotions properly and diminishing cognitive functions in the long term (e.g., sleep cycle, appetite).
This mental health condition affects 0.3% of people all over the world and is one of the main factors leading to premature aging of the brain due to Stress it causes on one’s nervous system by releasing high cortisol levels in the blood. It ages your brain fast because of the Stress it causes on one’s ability to regulate their emotions appropriately and diminish cognitive functions in the long term (e.g., sleep cycle, appetite).
Binge drinking and bulimia.
Binge drinking is another risk factor for developing thinking skills and damaging them over time by making you feel anxious, which releases cortisol (stress hormone), leading to premature brain aging. Bulimia, on the other hand, damages thinking skills because of inducing vomiting a lot, leading to malnutrition and lack of essential vitamins and minerals needed by our brains to keep working properly.
Youngsters with ADHD are at an increased risk of developing problems with thinking, memory, etc., sooner in their lives. It is because they don’t have enough focus and concentration, making them unable to get good grades at school. In the long term, it ages your brain because you can’t learn new things properly and not be able to do things on time and regulate your behaviors properly.
People suffering from Autism are in danger of developing thinking skills, memory, etc., at an early age due to a Lack of socializing with other people, which causes damage via proteins like beta amoid (the same protein that forms in Alzheimer’s disease). It also damages neuronal activities over time. It makes you feel lonely and releases cortisol (stress hormone), leading to premature brain aging.
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at risk of developing thinking skills, memory, etc. They have to deal with their problems by themselves without talking to anyone about them, which releases cortisol (stress hormone), leading to premature brain aging.
People suffering from this mental health condition are at risk of developing thinking skills, memory, etc. It is because they don’t get enough sleep and nutrition due to low serotonin levels. It causes neurons not to work properly and releasing cortisol (stress hormone), leading to premature birth aging of the brain.
Specific personality disorders.
People who have narcissistic personality disorder get furious quickly, which releases high cortisol levels in the blood, damages neuronal activities over time, causes premature ageing of the brain, and leads to impaired thinking skills and memory loss.
Those with bipolar disorder are at risk of having problems concentrating, which age your brain fast due to diminishing working memory (where you store information for short periods), conduction velocity. It is vital for learning new things and keeping up attention, etc.
Cardiovascular disease (e.g., atherosclerosis).
People who suffer from depression or anxiety are at risk of getting cardiovascular diseases or having heart problems faster than others. These mental health conditions cause high blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress. It may damage red blood cells, preventing them from carrying enough oxygen to your heart (myocardium). As a result, you can have chest pains that could lead to a heart attack if not treated on time.
Type 2 diabetes.
People who suffer from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are at risk of having type 2 diabetes faster than others because these mental health conditions cause inflammation in the body, making insulin not work correctly, leading to high blood sugar levels and cell damage.
Importance of a healthy brain
Those who suffer from the above mental health conditions are more likely to get depressed, have anxiety, and feel lonely over time. This may be making them use self-destructive coping strategies such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and doing dangerous things, which can lead to death. This is why people with mental health conditions are at risk of developing physical health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity which diminish cognitive abilities. It happens because mental health conditions are connected to the immune system and get activated in stressful situations. Due to releasing stress hormones such as cortisol which damage cells in the brain, reducing neuronal activities over time.
Ways to have a healthy brain:
- Have a healthy diet – include things like nuts, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and fish;
- Exercise – go for a walk each day with your dog or during your lunch break;
- Sleep – go to bed early enough and sleep 8 hours per night. If you can’t get enough sleep, try taking a nap during the day;
- Don’t smoke – this includes dope, weed, etc.;
- Reduce stress levels (e.g., by meditating, listening to music) because stress can release cortisol which damages neurons leading to problems with memory, etc.;
- Practice meditation and relaxation techniques – they reduce stress levels and help you feel better and improve your memory;
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as white bread, sugar, etc. because they make you feel hungry all the time and release cortisol which leads to problems with memory, etc.;
- Avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and too much salt – they have a terrible impact on brain health.
- Visit your doctor for consistent checkups to avoid long-term problems with memory etc.;
- Welcome people into your life who make you feel good and positive.
- Watch what you eat – avoid high-calorie foods like cakes, biscuits, etc.;
Having a healthy brain is important because it helps you develop good coping strategies and better manage your mental health conditions. Plus, there are many physical benefits of having a healthy brain, such as staying slim, sleeping well, and reducing blood pressure which prevents heart attacks and strokes.