10 Jul Who are the Super-Agers?
Is a declining memory inevitable with aging? This may not always be the case, according to a small study published in the October 2017 journal PLOS One. The Northwestern University SuperAging Program conducted the study first using neuropsychological testing to place participants into two groups. Scientists then compared 31 seniors who showed above average memory with 19 peers who had normal memory decline for their age. The study found that those so-called super-agers had the same cognitive ability as adults 20 – 30 years their junior
Previous studies focused on the biological aspects of super-agers and found that the brain’s cortex in these seniors are larger than those of their peers with average cognitive memory decline. However, this most recent study centered on the psychological aspects of why some people are super-agers.
Super-Agers and Social Relationships
Both groups reported high levels of psychological well-being including personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. They also had the similar levels of independence along with the ability to take care of everyday tasks. However, super-agers had greater levels of strong social relationships compared to peers with average-for-age mental decline. Therefore, the study authors suggest high-quality social relationships may be an important factor in being a super-ager. Positive social interactions may also be related to the increased density in the brain’s cortex of these super-agers.
The study’s outcome is consistent with previous research that shows social engagement, positive relationships with family members, and a network of emotional and social support is important for healthy cognitive functions in older adults including reduced rates of mental decline, lower risk of mild cognitive impairment, and dementia.
Tips to Help Prevent Memory Decline
In addition to having positive social connections, follow these steps to take to keep your brain healthy:
- Get regular exercise. Scientific research has shown that the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease can be reduced up to 50% with 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. Regular exercise will also help reduce the risk of disease and disability, decrease fall risk, increase muscle strength and flexibility, increase bone mass, and elevate your overall mood.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Studies show following a Mediterranean Diet greatly reduces cognitive impairment. Eat a variety of foods including fruits, green vegetables, lean proteins, unsalted nuts, dried or low-sodium canned beans, and whole grains to maintain and improve overall health. Eliminate or reduce sugar and processed/junk food to reduce inflammation in your body.
- Get mental stimulation. Evidence is evolving on whether playing computer games, puzzles, or word games will help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. However, according to the National Institute on Aging, being intellectually engaged may benefit the brain. People who volunteer or enjoy hobbies report feeling happier and healthier. Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too. For example, an NIH study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.
- Ensure quality sleep. Sleep is essential for mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.
- Learn to manage stress. The relationship between stress and the increase in dementia has not been scientifically proven, however, scientists believe stress does play a role in the progression of memory decline and cognitive disease.
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