"They are things of the age", we usually think when we notice that our memory It is not what it was, that sometimes it is difficult for us to follow the thread of some reasoning or to plan complex tasks. And although it may not be apparent until later, the truth is that the brain begins to age before the age of 30. It does not do it in a homogeneous way in all its areas and functions, nor even between some people and others.
Can delaying the aging of the brain? is the title of one of the books of Francisco Mora, Doctor of Medicine, Professor of Human Physiology and Doctor of Neuroscience by the University of Oxford. The answer he offers is clear: yes. The mental abilities that we preserve when we reach old age will depend on genetics only by 25% approximately; the rest will be the result of a combination of our habits, the education received and the intellectual, physical and social activity that we carry out throughout our lives. "Recent studies," says the expert, "lead us to the conclusion that it is possible to slow down the deterioration of the brain intrinsic to the process of aging. And this is achieved by adopting certain lifestyles. "These five routines will help you.
1. Collect cognitive reserve
Do not wait to notice gaps to train the memory, the capacity for attention, reasoning and problem solving. The key is to accumulate them throughout life and pull those resources when we are older. "The cognitive reserve It is the cushion of neural connections that we are creating, through experiences and learning, "explains Esther S. Camacho neuropsychologist at Liceum Gyms of the Mind, according to that" pantry "is more or less supplied, the mental deterioration It will make its appearance sooner or later. "The key is that the individual, during the stages prior to old age, obtain neural networks reinforced at the synaptic level (increase in connections between neurons) enough so that their subsequent deterioration has less impact on the physiological decline of mental activity, "explains Dr. Mora, and by increasing the cognitive reserve we limit the effects and virulence of neurodegenerative diseases: "By stimulating the brain memory can be improved and even positively facing diseases such as Alzheimer's. We can not avoid it or cure it, but we can delay its effects, "adds Esther S. Camacho.
2. Eat less and move more
The factors of cardiovascular risk they are associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. Therefore, everything you do for your heart will also help your brain. The Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) and the Brain Foundation recommend moderate physical exercise at least three days a week, which causes the hippocampal neurons to generate a protein, the neurotrophic factor derived from the brain, which stimulates the birth of neurons. It is also advisable to follow a Mediterranean diet (rich in omega-3), which favors the systems of hormonal self-regulation, the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the integrity of the mechanisms of cell membranes. But not only what we eat is important, but also how much. A Franco-British study of 2012 determined that the Cognitive impairment was 22.5% faster in obese subjects. For Dr. Mora this is a fundamental aspect for a young brain: it protects us from the free radicals of aging and, in addition, "eating less power the production of new neurons in the hippocampus (essential for learning and memory processes) increases the synapses and activates and favors the repair of neuronal damage ".
The five enemies of neurons:
- Tobacco. The brain suffers due to the alteration of the oxygen supply in the blood that is produced, damaging its capacity to process information. Memory and vocabulary are more affected in smokers.
- Sugar. The vertiginous increase in blood glucose gives us a rush of energy. But the effect disappears and causes the opposite effect: it reduces intellectual performance. Studies show that diets rich in sugars hinder neuronal communication and reduce memory.
- Alcohol. Yes, we know that excessive drinking usually produces temporary memory loss; but alcohol is also related to the damage to retrospective memory, which manages learning and the recovery of memories.
- Stress. After prolonged periods of stress, cortisol levels in the brain increase, which causes the neurons to lose their connections. That complicates or cancels the realization of the intellectual processes of the individual.
- Lack of sleep. Insomnia produces cognitive and memory deficits, anxiety and depression problems and subcortical alterations that affect the capacity of attention and response to stimuli. Sleeping less than seven hours a day decreases cognitive performance.
3. Sign up for the neurobic
Not only do you have to start the body. As well you have to train the mind. "The term neurobic refers to the exercises aimed at improving the capabilities of our brain, counterposing them to those that, by automatic, do not involve effort. The brain acts like a muscle: it atrophies if it is not stimulated and strengthens when it is exercised, "explains the neuropsychologist. neuropathic activities generate new dendrites and neurons improving multiple intelligences and developing cognitive abilities. Even small actions (doing things with the other hand, changing our route to work, changing the wristwatch …) puts the brain before a challenge and forces it to draw new neural paths to do so. The neurobic, among other benefits, exercises attention and memory, improves self-esteem and promotes independence.
4. Travel as much as you can
It's another pleasant way to get the brain out of the autopilot: travel to a new place, power the neuroplasticity and improves cognitive ability. "Our neurons can create new connections, even new neurons, but to do this we have to stimulate the brain, and there are three key elements to do so: novelty, variety and challenge, traveling meets all three," says doctor José Manuel Moltó, vocal of the SEN, and adds: "When you travel, you force your brain to be in a continuous process of problem solvings. The reason is that it requires learning and memorizing everything strange until it is known. "By adapting to new sensations (aromas, flavors …), learning new streets, drawing mental maps so as not to get lost and let alone communicate in another language, our brain becomes more plastic, awake and creative.
5. Avoid loneliness
In Spain, almost five million people live alone and 40% are over 65. The feeling of loneliness generates a chronic stress that atrophies the neurons involved in memory and learning, planning for the future and decision making. Loneliness increases the risk of dementia by 40%, according to research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. Regular and satisfying social life is an essential mental stimulus. "All recent studies conclude that an active and socially integrated lifestyle maintains a high mental capacity and protects against dementia and Alzheimer's, social isolation accelerates deterioration and leads to a high risk of dementia or Alzheimer's," says Dr. . Blackberry. Moreover, research shows that loneliness is associated with a higher incidence of hypertension and diabetes.