Not that many people make it to 100. But many who do are still sharp as a tack and quick on the draw. How is it that some older adults don’t seem to age at all? If you know an older adult who seems just as young as ever, they might be a “cognitive super-ager”, a term coined by researchers to describe older adults who stay mentally healthy.
What Aging Does to Your Brain
As you age, your body starts to slow down. You might not have quite as much energy as you used to, or you may take a little longer walking up the stairs. This is a normal part of the aging process, and the same process can happen in your brain. After a lifetime of hard work, some of the cells in your brain can start to show signs of wear and tear. They may be more susceptible to damage and you may have a higher risk of developing dementia.
But is there a way to keep your brain in tiptop condition even as you age?
Researchers at the Vrije University in Amsterdam are looking for patterns in healthy aging. They recently published a study looking at the risk factors for cognitive decline, as well as how to keep your brain healthy.
The researchers talked to 330 healthy centenarians, or adults over 100, to find out their secret to healthy aging. These older adults had the cognitive capacity of adults 30 years younger! They could easily make decisions, carry out plans, list objects or animals that began with a certain letter, and easily perform tasks. They also reported having an easy time finding their way home if they got lost. In fact, these centenarians had no major cognitive declines, even though they had a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The Protective Factor: Resilience
So what made these cognitive super-agers so healthy? Researchers believe that these individuals have a cognitive reserve that helps them cope with any changes in brain function. This resilience can have a protective effect that slows brain aging.
Even older adults who may have some brain damage typical of Alzheimer’s disease, such as plaques and tangles, loss of neurons, or inflammation, don’t show signs of cognitive decline. These centenarians may have some brain damage, but clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s don’t show up until much later, if at all.
What Makes Someone a Cognitive Super-Ager?
This resilience, or cognitive reserve, helps older adults cope with any changes in the brain. So even if an older adult has a high risk of developing dementia, they might not show any symptoms for many years.
Some of the factors that make someone a cognitive super-ager include:
- Eating a healthy diet. Diets like the Mediterranean diet include large portions of fresh vegetables and fruits and low consumption of processed foods and sugar.
- A vibrant social life. Older adults who stay socially active and participate in lots of leisure activities are more likely to be cognitive super-agers.
- Regular exercise. Physical and mental health are intertwined. Keeping the body healthy and active means your brain will likely be healthier as well. This lowers your risk of cognitive decline.
- Higher education or a cognitively demanding job. Older adults with a higher level of education, or who worked complex jobs are also more likely to be cognitive super-agers. This is because they’ve been very cognitively active for many years.
Treating Hearing Loss is Good for Your Brain
Dementia isn’t an inevitable part of aging. There are many things you can do to maintain your cognitive abilities and keep your brain healthy.
Treating your hearing loss is a great first step. Maintaining good hearing is important. Untreated hearing loss is linked to rapid rates of cognitive decline. It’s not hard to see why. Hearing loss makes it harder to stay social and stay active. This isolation can lead to anxiety and sadness, decreasing your overall quality of life. And these factors make it much harder to keep your brain active and stimulated.
Are you ready to become a cognitive super-ager? Visit us today for a hearing test and find out about your hearing aid options. We have the perfect pair waiting for you.