Are we losing our neurons over time?
The signs of reduced brain function are generally more marked after the age of 65, but memory loss or difficulty concentrating may appear earlier, from the age of forty (50% of fifty-year-olds complain of memory problems, for example). It was long believed that this was all related to the constant loss of neurons that happened over time. In fact, as we age, it is rather the connections between our neurons that can decrease and this is largely dependent on our lifestyle.
Then, there are also many other causes of failure of mental faculties that are not directly related to age (toxic, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, etc.). So don’t confuse…
On the other hand, there is true brain degeneration with neurons gradually dying. This is for example the disease of Parkinson’s orAlzheimer’s… These diseases are more frequent with age, of course, but fortunately aging does not always lead to this degeneration. Far from there.
Some are as quick-witted at 80 as they are at 20. Moreover, recent studies in neuroscience have shown that at any age, the brain is capable of recovering or creating new connections and functions. Even if our learning faculties are less efficient with age, the loss of intellectual performance is highly variable depending on the individual and is not at all mandatory. For example, vocabulary continues to increase throughout life.
So, might as well try to be one of those.
A slower but still efficient brain
Normal aging of the brain
Like the rest of the body, the brain is not spared the effects of time. Oxidation, glycation, inflammation, hormonal declines, less efficient blood microcirculation… all these phenomena linked to aging attack our neurons.
Nerve conduction velocity decreases. Thus, information is processed more slowly and motor functions are slowed down. Reactions and reflexes become less lively.
Also, cognitive functions can deteriorate with less good concentration abilities, sometimes failing memory or intellect, etc. The mechanisms for recording and retrieving information are less relevant.
Senile plaques (amyloid) gradually appear in the brain much like brown spots on the hands. Beyond a certain threshold? this can become pathological and promote the degeneration of neurons.
The degradation of nerve fibers also appears with age, in the same way as that of cortical gray matter (which contains the bodies of neurons). At the same time, the level of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine can drop in the brain.
According to neuroscience, there is no real reason why the capacities of our brain deteriorate as we age.
The cerebral structures supporting the functions of memory, attention and cognition are the most fragile in the face of aging processes.
All these phenomena seem more marked when blood circulation, and therefore oxygenation of the brain, decreases. They vary from person to person, annoying but not disabling.
Senile dementia (Alzheimer type and other forms) can appear in certain individuals, mainly after the age of 75-80. It’s a disease. The problem is that it is increasing alarmingly. The statistics vary according to the sources (20% of over 80s in Europe for some, 45% for others) but it seems obvious that everyone sees more and more people around them.
These are diseases linked to aging and truly neurodegenerative (with loss of neurons). There are others such as Parkinson’s disease.
They can be seen as an overrun of the brain’s ability to adapt to its environment.
They are all increasing. According to health institutions, this is due to the simple fact that people are living longer than before. According to other scientists, our way of life, our diet, pollution, even certain drugs, could well have something to do with it.
Contrary to what we have long believed, we have known for the past few decades that the number of neurons actually decreases very little during normal aging. Rather, it is the connections between neurons that are becoming fewer in most of us.
This inter-neuronal network becomes less dense and the cortical part of the brain (cortex) would lose 1% of its mass each year, after 70 years. Nevertheless, a study by David Ziegler in 2008
shows that gray matter thickness of the cortex is not related to performance on cognitive tests.
In conclusion, it seems that neurons are subject to the same aging rules as other cells in the body, with consequences linked to poorer and slower processing of information. We don’t know much more. It is especially necessary to make the difference between normal and pathological aging of the brain. Senile dementia, Parkinson’s, strokes and others… are, of course, part of the second case.
game of chess
- Neuroscientists have observed that:
- the brain is endowed with “plasticity”: it is able to reorganize its connections at any age in the event of a problem
- training and motor learning can improve the neural network at any age
language, arithmetic reasoning are functions that do not change despite age.
Avoid risk factors
- Favorable elements have been studied and recognized as at least probable. So avoid: the toxic
- such as aluminum, alcohol, tobacco… oxidation and the production of free radicals
- because the cells of the brain are very sensitive to it (increase the intake of antioxidants)I’ excess fatin the blood and hypertension
- arterial the neurotropic drugs
- if their need is not absolute (anxiolytics, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, etc.). Studies have shown the impact of these drugs on the risk of senile dementia, especially if they contain anticholinergics. thediabetesI’ obese
(check your weight here) that increase the risk of high blood pressure and chronic inflammation in general, the brain is susceptible to it.
Play on prevention, protect your neurons Eat healthyAvoid excess saturated fats and especially “trans” fats, in favor of an increased intake of
- , protectors of neurons. Do not salt too much to limit the risk of hypertension (see our guide to healthy eating). The following foods would also be preventative: the
- berries (by their high antioxidant power) the
- Coffee : it is an antioxidant. After being considered an unhealthy drink, coffee has been rehabilitated in recent studies. Caffeine limits the death of neurons and reduces the risk of diabetes, hypertension and brain degeneration (Parkinson’s and dementia). To be considered with hindsight all the same because not everyone reacts well to coffee and pay attention to the doses. the
- vitamin B12 : its absorption decreases with age. A brain lacking B12 can see the myelin of its neurons deteriorate . This is made worse by a lack of B vitamins in general.
- the curry : Alzheimer’s is less prevalent in India. Study shows better cognition tests in older Indians eating curry. The curcumin in turmeric it contains would protect against memory decline. It would block the formation of amyloid plaques from Alzheimer’s disease. It also reduces inflammation and can help regenerate neurons.
- the green tea : its leaves contain antioxidant catechins capable of passing through the meningeal barrier to go into the brain and protective of neurons (in particular dopamine neurons affected in Parkinson’s).
- the vinegar : several studies have shown positive effects on cognitive performance, dementia in rats, memory, blood sugar levels, diabetes and weight gain.
Learn and be curious about everything
The more one has learned and accumulated knowledge, the more the brain will use this data to compensate for less good neuronal connections or a less efficient memory. Learn languages, new games, science, music, healthy cooking, etc… these are not the subjects that are missing.
Even moderate, regular exercise retains muscle (about 2 hours per week) and maintains good blood circulation to the brain, which must be maintained at best for it to function well for a long time.
Have a lot of relationships with others
More social relationships have been shown to decrease the risk of neurological degeneration. Go out, meet people, talk to people.
Think about your hormonal backgroundSudden drops in sex hormones can promote the phenomena of neuronal degeneration (especially estrogen in women). See: hormones and aging Cultivate happiness and serenity
Recently, it was discovered that the production of anandamide (a neurotransmitter also called the hormone of happiness and which gives the feeling of well-being) can help improve and maintain memory despite age. It can also make our thinking faster and improve our dynamism. This hormone is stimulated by physical activity, the use of our performance abilities, the positive recognition of what life has given us, cocoa, tea, meditation…
meditationcould also delay the effects of aging on our brains, as shown in a study by the UCLA Brain Mapping Center. This being the case, it will be wise to adopt a more stable and peaceful way of life. Our brain will thank us for it as we age, just as we move towards less extreme and more “cushy” physical activities. There is a time for everything… it’s all about being good in your time.
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