Growing Older

Accuracy and mental fluency need not be diminished by age. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: Harper Audio, 2000)

It's well known that older people who stay mentally active are more resistant to cognitive decline and dementia, and many scientific studies have backed up this "use it or lose it" hypothesis. (New Scientist, 17 December 2005, p 32)

Multiple studies have shown that brain activity helps new connections to form. It turns out that brain activity is needed for selecting which synapses should be eliminated, as well. The findings have implications for conditions in which these mechanisms may have gone awry (e.g., autism, schizophrenia, and perhaps Alzheimer's). Almost daily another piece of research confirms how. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, pp 135-136)

Avoid foods that spike blood sugar. As blood sugar levels rise, increases in insulin and inflammation produce glycation (sugar molecules bind to proteins), which create free radicals known as AGEs. They can cause degeneration of nerves and brain. (Perricone, Nicholas, MD. cally important it is for you to keep your brain challenged, stimulated, and active! (Study shows map of brain connectivity changes during development.)

In some ways, aging resembles addiction. People allow their behavior to control them rather than develop new habit patterns that are healthier. (Chopra, Deepak, MD. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. NY: Harmony Books, 1993, pp 9-93)

It's well known that older people who stay mentally active are more resistant to cognitive decline and dementia, and many scientific studies have backed up this "use it or lose it" hypothesis. (New Scientist, 17 December 2005, p 32)

Multiple studies have shown that brain activity helps new connections to form. It turns out that brain activity is needed for selecting which synapses should be eliminated, as well. The findings have implications for conditions in which these mechanisms may have gone awry (e.g., autism, schizophrenia, and perhaps Alzheimer's). Almost daily another piece of research confirms how. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, pp 135-136)

Research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has shown that aerobic exercises, such as running, stimulates the growth of new brain cells. It also improves memory and the ability to learn. (Source)

The maximum amount a person can reduce his/her Real Age below his/her calendar age is about 25 years over an entire lifetime. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p 9)

Advanced glycation end products are aberrant cross-linked proteins that accelerate aging. Risk of creating destructive AGEs rises with a diet high in simple sugars (e.g., excessive fructose may be even worse than eating sucrose or glucose). (Carper, Jean. The Perricone Promise. NY: Warner Books, 2004, pp 138-148)

The brain has its own set of immune cells, called microglia, which can secrete C1q, a protein that has been implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This protein appears to lodge in synapses (the point between neurons) and is associated with cell death when a brain injury occurs. Levels of C1q appear to increase with age. According to professor and chair of neurobiology and senior author of the study, Ben Barres MD, PhD: “The first regions of the brain to show a dramatic increase in C1q are places like the hippocampus and substantia nigra, the precise brain regions most vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, respectively.” Children don’t get Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and these findings may help to explain that phenomenon. (Source)

Neurons, thinking cells, are generated in the human brain in the hippocampus every day. However, their production is influenced by a number of different environmental factors. For example, the consumption of alcohol has been shown to retard the generation of new neurons. (Shors, Tracey J. “Saving New Bain Cells.” Scientific American, p 47-48, March 2009)

Although some studies have shown that 2 drinks per day can help reduce risk of coronary artery disease, this must be balanced against adverse effects to the liver, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, immune system, bone marrow, and brain (e.g., memory loss). (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, p 38)

Refer to Brain Dysfunctions for additional information.

Refer to Care of the Brain for additional information.

Did you know that Alzheimer's may not be inevitble even if you have a genetic predisposition? According to Gary Small MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, reducing risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, and inactivity by 25% could prevent half-a-million cases annually in the USA. The goal is to stave off the disease long enough so you can live life without ever suffering Alzheimer's symptoms. (Small, Gary MD. The Alzheimer's Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life.)

Did you know that being bilingual offers some protection against Alzheimer’s? Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, studied 450 Alzheimer’s patients (half monolingual and half bilingual). Bilingual patients with Alzheimer's symptoms were diagnosed between four and five years later than the monolingual patients with Alzheimer’s symptoms.Mastering a second language appears to strengthen the brain in ways that seem to delay developing Alzheimer's disease later on. Just as a regular physical exercise program can keep your physical body in good shape well into your senior years, an effective mental exercise program can do the same for your brain. If you’re not bilingual and don’t want to learn another language, stimulate your brain daily with challenging brain aerobic exercises. (Source)

Attributions by centenarians included: no smoking, no drinking, good eating habits, staying active, etc. (Segerberg, Osborn. Jr. Living To Be 100. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982, pp 325-388)

Aging is a cumulative process. Aging well is a choice and attitude is critically important. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 18-20)

The way in which you view life is directly related to the way in which your brain ages. Negative feelings /mindset can trigger high levels of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline) to flood the brain. Over time this can result in reduced brain mass and cognitive ability. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD., with Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ: Career Press, 1999, p 235)

Eating lots of sugar with resulting high blood sugar levels can harm your brain by accelerating the aging process through chemical reactions in the cells. It can make your entire body age faster. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, p 135)

Studies: blueberries are brain food. They can reverse deterioration of motor function associated with aging, speed up communications between neurons, prevent loss of nerve growth factors, and positive impact dopamine release. (Perricone, Nicholas, MD. The Perricone Promise. NY: Warner Books, 2004, pp 50-70)

Studies: Scientists found adding foods like blueberries to a regular diet, resulted in improvements in memory. (Blueberries 'reverse memory loss' Free Radical Biology and Medicine journal. 2008, article)

University of Reading Studies: Blueberry flavonoids have now been found to activate the parts of the human brain that control memory and learning. Eating real blueberries can reverse memory loss and may have implications in the treatment of diseases like Alzheimer's. (Adams, Mike. Blueberries Reverse Memory Loss; Contain Natural Medicines to Prevent Alzheimer's. 2008, article)

Are you failing to engage regularly in brain aerobic exercises because you aren’t convinced that it will help to age-proof your brain? Think again. Kurzweil News reported on a study by UCLA researchers. They studied 59 participants who were recruited from local retirement communities in Southern California. The average age was 84. The study found that that older adults who regularly used a brain fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills. The volunteers were split into two groups: the first group used a brain fitness program for an average of 73 twenty-minute sessions over a six-month period; the second group played it less than 45 times during the same period. Researchers found that the first group demonstrated significantly higher improvement in memory and language skills, compared to the second group. Age-related memory decline affects approximately forty percent of older adults and is characterized by self-perception of memory loss and decline in memory performance. Get busy age-proofing your brain! (Source)

It is known that in adult brains, brain activity helps new nerve cells form and existing ones survive. That is why older people are often told to keep their brains active by doing crossword puzzles and other exercises. (Scripps Research Scientists Find Nerve Cell Activity Drains Stem Cell Pool in Developing Brain, 2010. (Source)

There is now good scientific evidence to show that exercising the brain can slow, delay, and protect against age-related decline. Brain training is gaining in popularity (e.g., Sudoku, MindFit software). (Geoghegan, Tom. Mind Games, article)

There seems to be a connection between Vitamin B 12 and a risk of brain shrinkage. A study published in the journal Neurologyanalyzed low levels of vitamin B12 that still fell within the normal range. Results showed that older individuals with low levels of vitamin B12 seemed to be at increased risk for brain atrophy, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease and impaired cognitive function. Although all participants had B12 levels within the normal range, there was a difference between the higher levels and the lower levels in terms of brain shrinkage. Ongoing research seeks to evaluate whether B vitamins can be recommended as a treatment. (Source)

There is a reduction in the efficiency of energy production in the mitochondria of brain cells with age. The brain must work harder in burning glucose to process information. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, pp 18-19.)

There are limits to the brain’s flexibility as it ages (e.g., becomes more difficult to reroute and establish new circuits). (Ratey, John J. MD. A User’s Guide to the Brain. NY: Vintage Books, 2002, pp 39-40)

Recent studies indicate that enhancements after action video game play are due to observers being better able to select and use the most reliable information for the task. Yet, unlike perceptual learning whereby the observer typically learns the best template just for the trained task, this work suggests that action gamers learn to find the best template on the fly as they are faced with new visual stimuli and new environments. According to this view, fast-paced, action-packed games have already been documented to have potent positive impact on an array of skills, including perception, visuo-motor coordination, spatial cognition, attention and decision making to cite a few, illustrating the powerful effect of action game play in reshaping the adult brain. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2992973/]

The brain shrinks with age as the cells get smaller. In addition, perhaps 100 brain cells per day may be lost. Some brain areas lose no cells, others lose 3-5% in 10 years. (Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions Your Brain Has Asked About Itself But Couldn’t Answer, Until Now. CT: Millbrook Press, 1998, p. 40)

Preliminary evidence from one of the largest studies of calorie-restricted diet in primates shows health benefits. Previously studies have shown this to be true with mice. Reports from researchers at the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: a 30% caloric restriction begun in rhesus monkeys in adulthood reduces risk of the most common age-related conditions (e.g., diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and brain atrophy) by one third. (Bourzac, Katherine. Do Dieting Monkeys Live Healthier and Longer Lives? Calorie Restriction Slows Aging in Monkeys.)

Refer to Cellular Memory (Epigenetics) for additional information.

Researchers are more optimistic than ever about the potential of the aging brain. For example, the brain can grow new nerve cells—neurogenesis. Studies of older people who have maintained mental acuity revealed common characteristics. They tended to be:

  • Socially connected, with strong ties to relatives, friends and, community
  • Both physically healthy and physically active
  • Engaged in stimulating or intellectually challenging activities.

(Caryn-Rabin, Roni. For a Sharp Brain, Stimulation, May 2008, article)

By age of 80 behavioral choices account almost entirely for a person’s overall health and longevity. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p 5)

The XY (male) chromosomal unit is more frail than the XX unit in the womb. This fragility continues after birth as more males die at every age level in infancy, childhood, and adulthood. (Ornstein, Robert. The Roots of the Self. NY: HarperCollins Publishing, 1995, p 27)

Mental decline is not part of normal aging for most elderly people. It is more likely to result from disease (e.g., diabetes, high systolic blood pressure) than simply from aging. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 18-19)

Lead Researcher Dr. Gary Small at UCLA: Brain imaging studies suggest that for middle-aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power. Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function. A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults. (Internet use 'good for the brain' BBC News. 2008. (Source)

Connected highways of nerve cells carry information to and from different areas of the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Scientists at Scripps Research Institute are trying to draw a complete atlas of these connections (connectome) to gain a better understanding of how the brain functions in health and disease. Multiple studies have shown that brain activity helps new connections to form. It turns out that brain activity is needed for selecting which synapses should be eliminated, as well. (Source)

Living a scrupulous life appears to prolong one’s life (more even than socioeconomic status and intelligence). Studies at UC-Riverside (Friedman and Kern) found that people who were less conscientious were 50% more likely to die at any given age, on average, than those of the same age who scored highly (Health Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.5.505). (Coghlan, Andy. Conscientiousness is the secret to a long life. New Scientist magazine, 2008, article)

Describes (and provides examples) of aging not being a deterrent to creativity. In many cases, just the opposite. (Dychtwald, Ken, PhD, and Joe Flower. Age Wave. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1989, pp 90-110)

Fluid memory (speed when dealing with new or novel situations) is better in young brains. Older brains can’t keep up in fluid intelligence but can excel in crystallized intelligence (specialized knowledge from life experiences and that requires large memory banks, judgment, and honed verbal abilities). (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: Harper Audio, 2000)

Midlife transition is more of a problem for Americans than for other nationalities. American society tends to reward youth and pragmatism and productivity. (Conway, Jim. Men in Midlife Crisis. IL: David C. Cook Publishing, 1978, 1980, pp 18-20)

According to Hill, the four "D's" of decline (dysfunction, disability, dependency, and death) are unavoidable. However, one's approach to these four D's and how the individual moves through them can differ greatly and impact the rate of progression. (Hill, Robert D. Seven Strategies for Positive Aging. p 5-8. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).

Successful aging can be defined as simply enjoying the maximum quality of life at any given age. Successful agers have a mission in life, a contribution to make to people they love and the world. They know why they’re here. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 12-15)

Water is absolutely essential for avoiding dehydration and yet many are chronically dehydrated. Some confuse thirst with hunger and eat instead of drinking water, which leads to weight gain. With age, people tend to lose thirst sensation and gradually become chronically dehydrated, and the body robs some areas of water to give it to other areas. (Brmanghelidj, F. Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. VA: Global Health Solutions, 1992, Excerpt)

Studies: aging humans who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids had increased gray matter brain volume. Most new tissue development was observed in the portion of the brain associated with happiness. (Sarah M. Conklin, PhD. High -6 and Low -3 Fatty Acids are Associated With Depressive Symptoms and Neuroticism. 2007.)

An essential hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Known as the “vitality hormone” because of its anti-aging properties, it is the body’s natural antagonist of the glucocorticoid family of hormones that includes cortisol. (Childre, Doc and Howard Martin. The HeartMath Solution. CA: Harper SF, 1999, p 266)

Refer to Care of the Brain and to Nutrition and the Brain for additional information.

A study of 2,262 Danish adults starting at age 92: Extreme age didn't bring extreme disability, overall. The elders did have a slight decline in their ability to perform routine activities, mental skills test scores, grip strength, and other measures, and fewer were independent at 100 than at 92. Most individuals can expect to experience physical decline before they die, but the postponement of this individual decline makes it possible to live into a fourth age stretching toward 100. (Research Summary, Article)

Four-year study of 8,000 people aged 65 and over in France reported three dietary staples of seniors who avoid dementia:

  • Eating fish at least once a week (Omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Eating fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked) daily
  • Using fats such as walnut oil, soy oil, or colza oil (related to canola oil)

(Barberger-Gateau. P. Neurology. Nov. 13, 2007, Vol 69, pp 1921-1930. News release, American Academy of Neurology. Link to Nutrition and Brain (SBF), Article)

Stimulation to the brain through education builds more brain tissue. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, pp 32-33)

People who are better educated tend to stay younger longer. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p 271)

Reports on British research and on the Nun Study. Better-educated people tend to live longer and even have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (Snowdon, David, PhD. Aging with Grace. NY: Bantam Books, 2001, pp 33, 39-44)

UC Berkeley researchers have developed a device that uses wireless signals to provide real-time, non-invasive diagnoses of brain swelling or bleeding. The device’s diagnoses for the brain trauma patients in the study matched the results obtained from conventional computerized tomography (CT) scans. Because fluid conducts electricity differently than brain tissue, it is possible to measure changes in electromagnetic properties. The tests also revealed some insights into the aging brain. With increased age, the average electromagnetic transmission signature of a normal human brain changes and approaches that of younger patients with a severe medical condition of hematoma in the brain. For brain hematomas, internal bleeding causes the buildup of blood in certain regions of the brain. For brain edemas, on the other hand, swelling results from an increase in fluid in the tissue. (Source)

Mitochondria are energy factories in each cell that burn oxygen to make energy. Unless neutralized by antioxidants, byproduct (free radicals) damage can accumulate in cells, slow energy production, accelerate the process of aging, and kill brain cells. PET scans: a reduction in the efficiency of energy production in the mitochondria of brain cells occurs with age. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. p 19-20. NY:HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000.)

Mitochondria are sometimes described as cellular power plants because they generate most of the cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate or ATP, used as a source of energy for chemical processes. The number of mitochondria in a cell varies widely by tissue type and organism. Many cells have only a single mitochondrion, whereas others can contain several thousand mitochondria. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion.)

Disturbances in mitochondrial metabolism are now known to play a role not only in rare childhood diseases, but have also been implicated in many common diseases of aging. Mitochondrial diseases include Alzheimer’s, Diabetes Mellitus and deafness, Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (Source)

Refer to Energy and the Brain for additional information.

Epigenetic plasticity can lead to an array of chronic diseases in older age if adverse nutritional and environmental circumstances are present during fetal and neonatal periods of development. (Lipton, Bruce, PhD. The Biology of Belief. p 158-159. CA: Mountain of Love/Elite Books, 2005.)

Refer to Cellular Memory for additional information.

Eight essentials have been found to help individuals improve brain and body fitness:

  1. Sharpen your mind
  2. Keep a positive outlook
  3. Cultivate healthy and intimate relationships
  4. Promote stress-free living
  5. Master your environment
  6. Shape up to stay young
  7. Embrace a longevity style of eating
  8. Stay abreast of and follow modern medical recommendations

(Small, Gary, MD. The Longevity Bible. NY: Hyperion Books, 2006)

Do you want to know what your chance is of living to be 100 years old? Dr. Perls had developed a test derived from lognevity research that cna help to poredict your estimated life expectancy. It can be done online at www.livingto100.com. (Perls, Thomas, MD, MPH, Head of the New England Centenarian Study.)

Studies from four universities: Researchers have discovered a possible connection between dysfunction of the dentate gyrus and poor glucose regulation. This may explain earlier observations that exercise benefits the dentate gyrus. Until now, scientists believed that physical activity reduced the risk of age-related memory loss by allowing glucose to be absorbed more quickly into muscle cells, but were not sure why. (Lite, Jordan. Exercise Your Brain: Why Working Out May Help Memory. Scientific American, 2008, article)

Exercise not only increases longevity but it also gives you more energy. Three basic types of physical activity that help to make one younger include general physical activity, stamina-building activities, and strength/flexibility exercises. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, pp 211, 262)

Refer to Exercise and the Brain for additional information.

Longitudinal study in eastern Finland started in 1970s: Of the 2000 people in the study, 76 had Alzheimer’s disease in 1998. Those who had been physically active in midlife (e.g., leisure-time physical activity that lasts at least 20-30 minutes and causes breathlessness and sweating) were less likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementia. (Fields, Helen (writer). Physical Exercise May Stave off Alzheimer’s. U S News and World Report. Reported October, 2005, article)

At 55 a man has only 70% of the capacity to exercise that he had at 25. A 55 year-old-woman’s capacity for exercise is reduced by only 10% of her capacity at age 25. (Stump, Jane Barr, PhD. What’s the Difference? How Men and Women Compare. NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985, p 76)

Chronic exhaustion is a “one-way ticket to premature aging.” (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, p 71)

The closer you get to the original food source the closer you are to the brain-boosting diet. Lists 10 ways to feed your brain effectively. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, pp 46-47)

Refer to Care of the Brain and to Nutrition and the Brain for additional information.

A bad diet can make you as much as 12 years older than the average American while good dietary choices can make you up to 12 years younger. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p 77)

Problems associated with aging (e.g., forgetfulness, having trouble learning new things) tend to involve the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. (Katz, Lawrence C., PhD and Manning Rubin. Keep Your Brain Alive. NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 1999, p 9)

The quest for the fountain of youth has everything to do with good health and the quality of life. (Water: The Misunderstood Nutrient. Alternative Medicine Angel, Article)

The longer you live, the more free radicals are created. The amount of accumulated damage and resulting decline depend greatly on antioxidant defenses (free radical fighters that can neutralize a free radical) that begin to decline about age 28. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: Harper Audio, 2000)

Recognize the stressful feeling and take a time out (freeze-frame it). By using Freeze-framing on a regular basis your immune system can be boosted. You can maintain a coherent, healthy inner environment so your body can save energy and remain youthful and strong. (Childre, Doc. Freeze Frame - One Minute Stress Management. CA: Planetary Publications, 1194, 1998, pp 11, 53)

Societal expectations are typically ignored by the real masters of successful aging. For example, Granda Moses first picked up a paint brush when she was 76. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 22-24)

PET scans show that the rate of blood flow in the gray matter of the front cortex starts to lessen around age 50. There is a reduction in the efficiency of energy production in the mitochondria of brain cells with age. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 17-18)

Studies: aging humans who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids had increased gray matter brain volume. Most new tissue development was observed in the portion of the brain associated with happiness. (Sarah M. Conklin, PhD. High -6 and Low -3 Fatty Acids are Associated With Depressive Symptoms and Neuroticism. 2007.)

The aging brain continues to have a remarkable ability to grow, adapt, and change patterns of connections. (Katz, Lawrence C., PhD and Manning Rubin. Keep Your Brain Alive. NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 1999, p 4)

A good sense of humor and plenty of laughter is associated with healthy aging. “A good laugh is better than a dose of medicine anytime.” (Segerberg, Osborn. Jr. Living To Be 100. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982, p 200)

Hyperthermia is an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment. Older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, should stay indoors on hot and humid days, especially when an air pollution alert is in effect or go to a cooling center. Health-related factors that might increase hyperthermia risk include: dehydration, substantial under- or over-weight, drinking alcoholic beverages, side-effects from some medications). Heat waves can cause heat-related deaths in susceptible individuals (e.g., very old, very young, very sick. (Source)

Refer to Sleep and the Brain for additional information.

The hormone insulin is responsible for getting glucose into the cells, which impacts your energy. If insulin resistant, the blood sugar does not enter the cells. High levels of glucose and insulin circulate in the blood, generating free radicals that promote inflammation and aging. (Perricone, Nicholas, MD. The Perricone Promise. NY: Warner Books, 2004, pp 130-132)

Population studies have confirmed that a combination of external stimulation (e.g., physical exercise, solitary leisure activities, attendance at religious events, activities of daily living) are associated with a reduced mortality in old age. Greater social networks and social engagements are associated with a reduced cognitive decline in elderly individuals. Use any type of stimulation (e.g., physical, mental, social, sensual, spiritual) to keep your body and mind agile and energetic. (BLS Newsletter, May 2011. Kyriazis, Marios, MD. Source)

They challenge the brain (e.g., make visual judgments about where pieces belong, mentally rotate pieces, manipulate pieces in your hands, shift attention from small to big-picture pieces). Finding the correct pieces stimulates production of dopamine (chemical that can help to improve learning and memory). (Newsletter. On the Brain. www.PositScience.com. CA: 2005, p 8)

Successful agers typically have a sense of humor and a ready laugh. They are able to laugh at the little things. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 152-153)

Studies by Berk of Loma Linda University: Beta-Endorphin and Human Growth Hormone increase are associated with both the anticipation and experience of mirthful laughter. Reported April 3, 2006. (Berk, Lee S. PhD. Paper presented in an American Physiological Society session at Experimental Biology, 2006. Article)

See the Brain and Laughter for additional information.

Older people can learn new tricks but they have to be convinced that they need to learn them. It is often fear that limits learning, not shortage of cerebral capacity. As few as 10% of brain cells disappear even over a long lifetime. (Conway, Jim. Men in Midlife Crisis. IL: David C. Cook Publishing, 1978, 1980, pp 242-243)

Research by psychologist Bernice L. Neugarten related to adult development and aging identified the most important factor in healthy aging as one’s personal perspective of life satisfaction. Five crucial ingredients were: Enjoyment of daily activities, a positive mind-set (optimism), a positive and worthwhile self-image, a belief that one’s life has meaning, and satisfactory achievement of major goals. (Neugarten, Bernice L. The Meanings of Age. Selected Papers. MI: University of Chicago Press, 1996, Summary)

Lipoic or alpha-lipoic acid is a superantioxidant. Both fat and water soluable it can work in both the watery and fatty portions of the cell. It helps control blood sugar and insulin levels, and helps block formation of AGEs that accelerate aging. Production declines with age. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 231-234)

Researchers have studied the integration of auditory and visual information for speech perception in older as well as younger adults. The results shows that on average older adults are as successful as young adults at integrating auditory and visual information for speech perception at the syllable level. There were differences in the response alternatives chosen, however. When auditory and visual integration of speech information failed to occur, producing a nonfused response, participants selectws an alternative response from the modality with the least ambiguous signal. For example, young adults with normal peripheral sensitivity often chose an auditory alternative whereas, older adults and control participants leaned toward visual alternatives. In additions, older adults demonstrated poorer lipreading performance than their younger counterparts. (Source)

Studies of centenarians have shown that 16 health habits and lifestyle factors strongly predict who will live to be 100 years old and still be able to live independently (and about half of the centenarians can):

  1. Have low blood sugar (less than 100 mg/dL fasting)
  2. Have low blood pressure (target is 115/75 mg Hg)
  3. Have low total blood cholesterol (less than 200 mg/dL)
  4. Keep weight low and steady (BMI from 18.5 to 25)
  5. Eat fewer calories
  6. Eat mostly a vegetarian "Mediterranean diet"
  7. Supplement food intake with vitamins
  8. Exercise regularly (be active and stay busy after retirement)
  9. Do not smoke
  10. Minimize alcohol intake
  11. Get regular and restful sleep
  12. Have healthy gums
  13. Challenge your mind
  14. Maintain a positive attitude and avoid anxiety and depression
  15. Shed stressors, have daily structure, and be resilient
  16. Stay socially connected with serenity and a purpose to life

(Howard, Michael E., PhD. How to Live to 100: 16 Lifestyle Characteristics of the Oldest and Healthiest People in the World. Biomed Home Study Course, Biomed General Press, 2010.)

Estimate by Beverly Winikoff, a physician and Rockerfeller University. Average life expectancy would increase by seven years if good nutrition, exercise, and good health habits (especially not smoking) were practiced. By comparison, average life expectancy would increase by only 2 years if all cancers could be cured overnight. (Ornstein, Robert, PhD, and Paul Ehrlich. New World New Mind. MA: Malor Books, 1989, 2000, pp 120-121)

Stress-induced illness comes only from the things that stress you, even if they differ from things that stress others. Reducing stress in your life can give back 30 of the 32 years that major life events can take away. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, pp 255-259)

Although you can’t choose how long you will live, you do have responsibility for how well you will love. Part of that involves your attitude or response to life’s upsets and disappointments. Heredity is not as strong an influence on health as many believe. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 7-8, 15)

Statistics show that the average life expectancy is 77 years for men and 83 years for women. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p 15)

Ignoring who you authentically are can literally be killing you. Forcing yourself to be someone you are not or stuffing down who you really are can shorten your life by perhaps as many as 14 years. (McGraw, Phillip C., PhD. Self Matters, Creating Your Life From the Inside Out. NY: Simon & Schuster Source, 2001, pp 17-18)

Studies continue to show that for most people lifestyle choices and behaviors have far more impact on longevity and health than does heredity. (Roizen, Michael F., MD. Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p xv)

Unless people sabotage the body’s natural process, several lines of evidence indicate the human body is programmed to last until age 110 or 120. (Bortz, Water M. II, MD. We Live Too Short and Die Too Long. NY: Select Books, 2007.)

Studies at UCLA: People who are currently married have longer average life expectancies than those who are not. People who never marry are more likely than people who have been divorced, separated, or widowed to die prematurely. There may be some correlation between lifestyle and whether or not the person is married. (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health)

Cites statistics from Europe related to longevity up to the 20th century (e.g., 25% of children died prior to age 1, average life expectancy was 30 years, for laborers it was 23, for English gentry it was 43 years). (Benson, Herbert, MD., with Marg Stark. Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief. NY: Scribner, 1996, pp 111-112)

Four practices can add potentially 14 healthy years to your life. In the EPIC-Norfolk Study, the people who didn't practice any of these four were four times more likely to die during the eleven-year period than people do included them in their daily lifestyle:

  1. Not smoking
  2. Keeping phyisically active
  3. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  4. Drinking moderatelyDrinking moderatelyDrinking moderately

(Khaw et al., Combined Impact of Health Behaviours and Mortality in Men and Women: The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study. PLoS Medicine5 (1) e12. dol:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050012. Published January 8, 2008.)

According to Dr. Laurel Yates and colleagues at Harvard University who followed 2,357 men in the 70s for 25 years,"It's not luck, it's not just genetics...it's lifestyle that seems to make a big difference." Participants who smoked, were obese, were inactive, had diabetes, and had hypertension had only a 4% chance of ever getting to age 90. On the other hand, participants had a 53% chance of living into their 90s if the following were included in their lifestyle:

  1. Not smoking
  2. Maintaining a normal weight
  3. Exercising regularly
  4. Having a low blood sugar
  5. Having low blood pressure

Conclusions: Modifiable healthy behaviors during early elderly years, including smoking abstinence, weight management, blood pressure control, and regular exercise, are associated not only with enhanced life span in men but also with good health and function during older age. (Yates, Laurel B., MD, MPH. Exceptional Longevity in Men: Modifiable Factors Associated With Survival and Function to Age 90 Years. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(3):284-290.)

Melatonin secretion naturally drops off with age causing an age-related “jet-lag,” if you will. Taking melatonin about an hour before bedtime has been shown to improve quality of life in some elderly individuals. Positive correlations with cancer and stress have also be identified. (Dean, Ward, M.D., and John Morgenthaler and Steven Wm. Fowkes. Smart Drugs II, Melatonin Chapter. Smart Publications. 2000. Article)

See Sleep and the Brain for additional information.

The best protection against memory loss is to exercise the brain’s memory mechanisms. Unfortunately, the failure to actively flex one’s memory “muscles” can result in atrophy. (Restak, Richard, MD. Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot. NY: Harmony Books, 2001, pp 52-53)

Activities that stimulate the senses and reminiscence engage multiple parts of the brain. This can help strengthen the mind and retard memory loss. (Einberger, Kirstin, and Sellick Janelle, MS. Strengthen Your Mind. MD: Health Professions Press, 2007, all)

When older people can no longer remember names at a party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is erroneous. Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit. The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, Progress in Brain Research. (Progress in Brain Research, Summary)

A study of the brains of people who stayed mentally sharp into their 80s and beyond challenges the notion that brain changes linked to mental decline and Alzheimer's disease are a normal, inevitable part of aging. In a presentation at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS 2010), Changiz Geula, Ph.D., described the first study of its kind involving elderly people with super-sharp memories. He said, “Environment, lifestyle, and genetics may be key factors. For example, some super-aged individuals might have a genetic predisposition to being super-aged, while others may help preserve high brain function by maintaining a healthy diet or staying physically active. Others may keep mental decline at bay by keeping the brain itself active: By reading books, playing crossword puzzles, or engaging in other mentally demanding activities.” (Source)

Refer to Memory and the Brain for additional information.

Discusses ordinary memory (decreases with age) versus intelligent memory (improves with age), which is fast, requires little effort, and usually subconscious. (Gordon, Barry, MD, PhD, and Lisa Berger. Intelligent Memory. NY: Penguin Group, 2003, pp xi-xii, 1-4)

Deterioration in mental function previously attributed to “normal aging” may be at least partly due to subtle undetected and correctable deficiencies of specific vitamins that are required by the brain. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, p 197)

Most loss of mental capacity happens to the very old and is related more to lack of exercise, drug interactions, depression, or other reversible conditions. Senility is really not a “disease.” (Dychtwald, Ken, PhD, and Joe Flower. Age Wave. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1989, pp 37-40)

Studies: chances of retaining good mental function during the aging process is increased by maintaining high blood levels of Vitamins C and Bs. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 9-11, 206-207, 208, 221)

Refer to Music and the Brain for additional information.

At any age, learning to play a musical instrument can help in the development and activation of the temporal lobe neurons. This is likely to increase brain function overall. (Amen, Daniel G., MD. Change Your Brain Change Your Life. NY:Times Books, 1998, pp 206-208)

Studies: music can be therapeutic in differing ways. For example: can enhance healing, promote positive mood, and moderate pain. (Howard, Pierce J., PhD. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research. GA: Bard Press, 1994, 2000, pp 188-189)

Neglect, mental and/or physical, promotes premature aging. (Chopra, Deepak, MD. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. NY: Harmony Books, 1993, pp 124-130)

Neurobics is a new form of brain exercise designed to help keep the brain agile and healthy. The book outlines 83 neurobic exercises to help prevent memory loss and increase mental fitness. (Katz, Lawrence C., PhD and Manning Rubin. Keep Your Brain Alive. NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 1999, p xi)

Researchers are more optimistic than ever about the potential of the aging brain. For example, the brain can grow new nerve cells—neurogenesis. Studies of older people who have maintained mental acuity revealed common characteristics. They tended to be:

  • Socially connected, with strong ties to relatives, friends and community
  • Both physically healthy and physically active
  • Engaged in stimulating or intellectually challenging activities.

(New York Times, 2008, Article)

There appears to be little loss of neurons related to aging in brains not damaged by Alzheimer Disease. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 22-24)

The average person stands to lose about 10% of his/her brain weight over a lifetime, much of this due to shrinking of neurons. Use it or lose it; the more you use your brain the higher the ratio of synapses to neurons.(Howard, Pierce J., PhD. The Owner’s Manual for The Brain. GA: Bard Press, 1994, 2000, pp 193-200)

Fruits and vegetables and foods high in polyphenolic compounds such as berries and perhaps walnuts (e.g., approximately one ounce per day for humans), may have a plethora of positive effects on brain function. They may help cognitive, motor, and neuronal functions and positively enhance signaling and neurogenesis. There may also be benefits to the aging brain, helping it to decrease vulnerability to oxidative and inflammatory insults related to aging. (Packer, Lester, et al. Micronutrients and Brain Health (Oxidative Stress and Disease) p 182-184. NY: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2009.)

Refer to Nutrition and the Brain for additional information.

Nutritional Neuroscience is a new medical specialty that has shown how nutrients, vitamins, supplements, and other lifestyle factors can be utilized to increase brain power, and prevent or reverse brain deterioration related to aging. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, p xix)

Eating nuts five or more times a week reduces your risk of heart attack by 60%.The California 1990s Adventist Health Study found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 60%, eating nuts was one of the four top factors for extending longevity among Seventh-day Adventists. The beneficial effects were found for men, women, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fatter people, thinner people, the old, the young, those who exercise and those who don't. (Minton, Barbara L. Eating Nuts Greatly Reduces Your Risk of Heart Attack and Cancer. May, 2008, article)

A new study from Harvard Medical School and UCSD: obesity is contagious. Researchers followedd 12,000 people for more than 30 years: A person's chance of developing obesity is greatly increased if a close friend, sibling, or spouse gained weight. A person may become more accepting of fat if someone he or she esteems gains weight. (Obesity. Scientific American Mind,” October/November 2007. www.sciammind.com)

Studies: Prevalence of obesity increased in the US between 1978 and 1991; and continued in 1999-2000. The potential health benefits from reduction in overweight and obesity are of considerable public health importance. (Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Ogden CL, Johnson CL. JAMA. 2002 Oct 9;288(14):1723-7. National Center for Health Statistics, Abstract)

Studies: aging humans who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids had increased gray matter brain volume. Most new tissue development was observed in the portion of the brain associated with happiness. (Sarah M. Conklin, PhD. High -6 and Low -3 Fatty Acids are Associated With Depressive Symptoms and Neuroticism. 2007.)

Mayo Clinic Proceedings study: People who scored high on optimism had a 50% lower risk of early death than those who were more pessimistic. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, p 102)

Reports on studies: an optimistic attitude can actually help to prevent you from getting sick. (Hafen, Brent Q., et al. Mind/Body Health. MA: Simon & Schuster, 1996, pp 510-512)

The aging process causes personal characteristics of an individual to stand out, become more pronounced. Presents the goal of aging: vitality. (Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation. NY: The Guilford Press, 1985, pp 147-160)

As you age you can still increase the connections between the neurons – you never have to stop learning! (Hafen, Brent Q., et al. Mind/Body Health. MA: Simon & Schuster, 1996, p 12)

A positive attitude and outlook have been shown to help keep the brain young and health. Free radical production is reduced and the levels of stress hormones are kept low. All these things contribute to mental sharpness. (Giuffre, Kenneth, MD., with Teresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. NJ:Career Press, 1999, p 235)

A 23-year Yale University study of more than 600 people aged 50 and over. Results showed that individuals with positive thoughts about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative thoughts about old age. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as reported in Vibrant Life. MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, Sept/Oct 2002)

The amount of brain mass is not a true test of a brain’s quality. Strength, circuitry, and connections of the neuronal networks are. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 13-14)

Preventing the “preventable” is really not that difficult. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA:Biomed General. 2007, p 49)

Prevention is better than trying to restore memory and other functions. Contains many tips for life-style factors that can help to preserve memory during the aging process. (Small, Gary, MD. The Memory Bible. NY: Hyperion, 2002, p 2)

The brain has its own set of immune cells, called microglia, which can secrete C1q, a protein that has been implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This protein appears to lodge in synapses (the point between neurons) and is associated with cell death when a brain injury occurs. Levels of C1q appear to increase with age. According to professor and chair of neurobiology and senior author of the study, Ben Barres MD, PhD: “The first regions of the brain to show a dramatic increase in C1q are places like the hippocampus and substantia nigra, the precise brain regions most vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, respectively.” Children don’t get Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and these findings may help to explain that phenomenon. (Source)

Aging is a cumulative process. Aging well is a choice and attitude is critically important. (O’Brien, Mary, MD. Successful Aging. CA: Biomed General. 2007, pp 18-20)

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