Age Your Brain
So you want to age your brain?
Eat processed foods.
Or do drugs.
Or drink and do drugs.
Live a very sedentary life.
Limit social contacts.
Limit challenges to your neural network to T.V.
Stay up late.
Make sure you are exposed to a lot of environmental toxins.
Worry a lot, especially about things you cannot control.
This is a simple formula, easy to implement, with a 100% success rate.
Your brain will accelerate the aging process for you and your aging brain will desert you long before it should.
Or You Can Age Your Brain Sensibly
How have centenarians like Attorney Jack Borden, Sally Gorden, who still works at the Nebraska legislature, and Lucy Villani, a greeter at Wal-Mart aged their brains differently?
Maybe they did some of what 88 year old Bill and 82 year old Pat do to keep their strength up for travel, which means workout, which increases their neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, so age your brain can mean a couple of different things.
Some of the newest research about the human brain says we grow new neurons every day, throughout the life span, and those neurons can be imported to already existing circuits if we take care of some preparation.
(Hint-dark chocolate can be a part of this)
Maybe centenarians who are working at 100 and loving it have always done some of the things I am going to talk about on this page, like attend to the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.
Most of us have probably seen both extremes of 'age your brain' in our own family.
We have had a grandparent or uncle or aunt who took care of themselves and were vitally involved in their lives right up to the end, maybe even planning their own funeral.
And we have probably all had another relative who deteriorated quickly and had to finish their life in a nursing home.
Is it possible to tip the scales to the alive and vibrant side of age your brain?
I believe so, and recent discoveries and research are saying that we can exert some effort to the healthy side of age your brain.
I read a very excellent book about a year ago, called The Brain the Changes Itself by Norman Doidge,MD, and another by Sharon Begley, called Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, both of speak to aging your brain successfully.
Doidge interviews Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. who is one of the world's leading researchers in the neuroplasticity arena, who is quite enthusiastic about the possibilities for aging your brain.
In fact, Merzenich's The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program was put to the research test and the results published in the IMPACT study in April of 2009, and both the participants and the researchers were surprised at the power of the results obtained by using one of the commercially available brain fitness programs.
Just below is a video by those folks. Just click the triangle in the middle of the black box and the video will play.
With 524 participants, the IMPACT study is the largest clinical trial ever to examine whether a specially designed, widely available cognitive training progrram would have any impact on age your brain.
And so the marketers are moving to supply us with excellent copy for selling products which may work as well as the Posit Science Program.
However, I think it is wise to begin with a bit of research about those pillars of brain fitness, and an excellent resource that you can download to your computer, or get a hard copy version of, is called Brainfit for Life The authors, Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan who have culled the age your brain research and pulled all the useful hints out of that research and made it available to us in an easily readable format, leaving the jargon in the lab, and they even include some sly humor.
But there is much we can do to age our brains so that we can reach the centenarian mark like Attorney Borden.
The first pillar of age your brain successfully is physical activity/exercise and if you clicked on the link above, you saw that Bill and Pat have been training with Scott Tousignant for nine years, so that means Bill was 78 when he began training.
Age is not a factor when it comes to neurogenesis or neurogenesis enhancing activities. You also do not need to fling around heavy barbells or train for the Ironman Triatholon, although Jim Ward ran in it when he was 74.
The important thing is to breath deep, so if you get your breathing deeper going up and down the steps a few extra times, you will have done the right stuff in regards to the physical activity/exercise pillar.
Evans and Burghardt put some effort into the information they provide for brain fitness pillar #2, nutrition. They spend quite a bit of time on micro and macro nutrients, and they speak to the importance of both antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids for your brain.
It turns out that neuron membranes are sheathed in omega 3 fatty acid, and need replacement omega 3 every day, or those membranes get brittle which means neurons do not communicate as clearly with neighboring neurons, and that is an aged brain, confused and disoriented.
The best source of omega 3 fatty acids are fish, which means monitoring your mercury intake. If you would prefer not to have to worry about mercury intake, then perhaps an appropriately processed supplement is in order. Why are sleep and stress management important to the age your brain process?
According to Evans and Burghardt, important hormonal events and memory consolidation activities happen during sleep. If we cut our sleep short, then those activities are not completed, to our detriment.
Stress hormones kill new neurons just as surely as booze and environmental toxins do.
So if you want to keep the replacement parts flowing to existing brain circuitry, then keep stress hormones to a minimum.
The best and cheapest and healthiest way to do that is to breath deep. Most of my clients nod sagely at me when I say that, and go right back to very shallow breathing, which actually tells your body to produce stress hormones.
So perhaps you are seeking a technological tool to aid you with the sleep and stress management aspects of aging your brain, and I have just the one.
I have been using HeartMath with my clients for 8 years, and I know it feels great to create a coherent heart rate, and I know it changes my internal hormonal bath to DHEA, the antiaging hormone, and it opens the higher perceptual centers in my brain for problem solving.
Heartmath is a great tool for your golf game, or your SAT or ACT tests, or your sleep.
The last pillar of aging your brain is the novel learning experience, which really induces the neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity happens quickly too, within minutes, and if I want to keep those new connections I need to repeat the learning process a few times.
We mentioned the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program above, which is one of the best programs, along with Lumosity and Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, for the neuroplasticity and neurogenesis processes. Here are links.
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