Much like our ability to slow down and reverse the aging of our bodies the same applies to our brain.
Adopting specific lifestyle behaviors in our 30’s and 40’s or in our 50’s and beyond can have a profound and tangible effect on how well we age. And the opposite holds true – neglect and destructive habits will compromise both our bodies and brain as we age.
As we age a build up of toxins such as tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques have been correlated to aging process and cognitive decline. This process which seems to be a natural aging process can be increased by many negative factors. Stress, lack of sleep, inactivity and neurotoxins ( including alcohol) can accelerate this process.
Neuroplasticity – defined by 3 mechanisms ( synaptic connection, myelination and neurogenesis) allows our brains to change and develop during our lifespan. Neurogenesis – the birth of new neurons is the real key to resilient aging.
This activity happens in the hippocampus – a region of the brain responsible for new memories. We store new experiences during the day and store them during sleep. The more we experience new things and activities and challenge new learning the greater the possibility of neurogenesis.
3 Ways To Turn On Resilient Aging By Activating Neurogenesis:
1. Aerobic Exercise and HIIT – helps to build BDNF ( brain derived neurotrophic factor) which encourages neurogenesis and minimize beta amyloid plaquing. Individual or group sports / activities are both effective.
2. Healthy Eating and Intermittent Fasting – research indicates that calorie restriction and intermittent fasting both encourage neurogenesis. Reducing refined sugars and processed foods help minimize oxidative damage to brain cells which has been linked to higher risks for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Restorative Sleep – new research has proven that sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system which helps flush out the build up of tau proteins and beta amyloid plaque. Sleep deprivation leads to memory deficit and other cognitive impairments.
Brain resilience is supported by sufficient quality and length of sleep. The brain responds best to regular circadian cycles that are best promoted by consistent sleep habits (getting to bed and waking at the same times).
Consistent exercise, healthy eating and managing one’s stress levels ( best done with mindfulness and breath-based meditation) all improve sleep quality and consistency.
The key is building these new habits and until they become a regular part of your life.