3 Crazy Myths About the Aging Brain and a Few Legitimate Concerns
When you think about using diet and exercise to stay fit and healthy after 60, how many of those thoughts go into a fitness plan for your brain?
Yes, in spite of what you’ve heard, diet and mental exercise can improve your aging brain! In today’s video, Dr. Sarah Brewer presents ways to counteract the myths about what getting older inevitably does to your brain – and how to tell when you really do need help.
Brain Myth # 1: Your Brain Can’t Change after 60
This myth overlooks the fact that even when you’re asleep, your brain is awake and busily cleaning house. Dr. Sarah explains how it clears out any unused connections to make room for new ones.
Every time you exercise your brain with a new task, it builds connections. Read a book on an unfamiliar topic. Study a new language. Take classes to broaden your horizons. Sit down with a crossword puzzle. Or entertain yourself with our online games!
All these things will challenge your brain. And a mentally stimulated brain is constantly creating pathways.
Myth #2: Memory in Older Women Must Fail
Many of us have walked from one room to another and not remembered why. But is this a sign that we’re headed for catastrophic memory loss?
Not at all, says Dr. Sarah. Specific brain-friendly foods and supplements can actually strengthen memory in older women. Her favorite suggestions?
Popeye was right! Eating your spinach – or kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other green vegetables – boosts your brain function. They’re loaded with chlorophyll, Vitamin K and a range of B vitamins.
But their real power comes from nitrates. Your body converts nitrates to circulation-boosting nitrites that flood your brain with those nutrients and oxygen too!
For maximum nutrition and absorption, Dr. Sarah recommends eating leafy greens raw in salads or tossing them into a green drink or smoothie.
More than 70 percent of your brain-cell membranes consist of the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Our bodies can’t make DHA very well, but just two weekly servings of oily fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel supply all we need. Vegans can get DHA from algae-based supplements
Oily fish also contains Omega-3 EPA. EPA enables our brain cells to communicate. Cod liver oil is a vegan-friendly source of Omega-3 acids. Like oily fish, it also contains Vitamin D, which plays a big role in brain function and mood control.
Known as “smart supplements,” herbal-based nootropics help us think more clearly. Like leafy greens, Gingko biloba increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
In laboratory testing, Bacopa monierri has grown communication pathways between brain cells. It could help significantly to reduce age-related memory loss.
When It’s Time to Seek Help
Do you experience frequent forgetfulness or disorientation? Do you sometimes forget where you are? Have people close to you noticed your personality changing?
If any of those things happen often enough to concern you, Dr. Sarah encourages you to arrange for questioning tests through your doctor. They’ll determine if you need a more extensive examination or assistance.
To help organize your everyday life after 60, simply writing reminders of what’s on the schedule is fine. If you’re an exceptionally busy senior, use meditation to help calm your mind and strengthen your focus.
Myth #3: Serotonin Is Only Made in the Brain
Serotonin is the hormone most responsible for brain health and mood regulation. For a very long time, science said that most serotonin was manufactured in the brain. But that’s simply not so, says Dr. Sarah.
The Brain-Gut Connection
Research has now shown that the gut bacteria which help you digest your food also produce 90 percent of your serotonin! This microbiome may also increase appetite and support healthy weight gain in women over 60. Dr. Sarah also suggests a connection between a serotonin imbalance and irritable bowel syndrome.
What dietary changes will support your microbiome? Replace sugary, starchy or processed foods with yogurt and other fermented foods rich in healthy bacteria!
What worries do you have about your aging brain? What dietary or behavioral changes have you made to protect it? Please join the conversation below so we can learn what works for you!