As we age, our bodies and brains go through developmental changes. Which parts of the brain shrink the most in later life? Read on for interesting answers!
In the United States, approximately one out of every nine adults over the age of 45 reports experiencing some level of memory loss. This has to do, in part, with the fact that certain parts of the brain start to shrink as we get older, which impacts our memory.
At this point, you might be wondering, “Which parts of the brain shrink the most in later life?” or “Is there anything you can do to slow down the shrinking process?” If this is the case for you, read on for answers to these and other pressing cognitive health questions.
Which Parts of the Brain Shrink the Most in Later Life?
As humans get older, some areas of the brain start to shrink and experience losses when it comes to neural connections.
The areas that are associated with learning and memory are some of the most vulnerable to shrinkage. This includes the hippocampus and the frontal lobe.
Signs of Brain Shrinkage and Cognitive Decline
Some people assume that brain shrinkage (and the loss of memory and cognitive abilities that accompanies it) happens in old age. While many people don’t exhibit serious signs of these issues until they’re in their sixties or older, the brain actually starts to slowly shrink starting in our late twenties or early thirties.
Depending on the speed with which a person’s brain shrinks, they may experience symptoms quite young (even in their mid-forties like the people mentioned earlier).
The following are some of the most common symptoms you may notice in yourself or others when their brain is starting to shrink and their cognitive abilities are beginning to fade:
- Difficulty learning new concepts
- Trouble with short-term or long-term memory
- Challenges with speech, swallowing, or other motor activities
- Poor balance
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Poor judgment
In many cases, these symptoms come on gradually. Many people don’t even notice them until they’ve become severe or start to have a negative impact on their quality of life. The sooner you spot them, though, the more options you have when it comes to managing and/or improving your or someone else’s cognitive health.
How to Slow Down the Aging Process
There are several steps you can take to promote good cognitive health and slow down the process of brain aging and shrinking. The following are some of the most effective strategies you can start utilizing today:
Physical exercise is one of the best things a person can do to safeguard their brain from premature aging/shrinkage.
Regular exercise helps to improve blood flow to the brain. It can even promote the formation of neurons and encourage the formation of new connections between those neurons.
All of this is essential when it comes to improving one’s memory and preventing the signs of cognitive decline.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating with brain health in mind is another good step to take to reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and ensure the brain is getting all the nutrients it needs to thrive long-term.
The following are some good guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to promoting cognitive health:
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
- Eat adequate amounts of healthy fats (from sources like avocados, olive oil, etc.)
- Focus on omega-3s from fatty fish (sardines, salmon, etc.)
- Minimize the consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates (chips, crackers, cookies, etc.)
- Eat enough high-quality protein
Remembering these basic tenets will help you create a healthy diet that works for your specific preferences while also prioritizing your brain health.
Improve Heart Health
There’s quite a bit of research connecting poor heart health with poor cognitive health. This has to do, in part, with the fact that a cardiovascular system that isn’t functioning well won’t be able to pump blood and nutrients to the brain in the most efficient way.
Focusing on lowering or maintaining your blood pressure is a great first step. Work to improve your cholesterol levels, too. Exercise and a healthy diet can work wonders when it comes to boosting your health in these areas.
Improve Blood Sugar Control
If you have poor blood sugar control and have a hard time shuttling sugar from the blood into the cells where it belongs, your body (including your brain) will be more prone to inflammation and oxidative damage.
Reducing your consumption of sugar and processed carbs can be very helpful when it comes to improving this aspect of your health.
Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol
Neither tobacco nor alcohol is particularly helpful when it comes to promoting good cognitive health.
Tobacco can impair blood flow and increase oxidative damage to the cells of the body (including the brain cells). Alcohol, when consumed in excess, is also known to increase one’s risk of developing dementia.
People who meditate and practice mindfulness on a regular basis have larger hippocampi than those who do not. Making mindfulness a consistent part of your routine (even for just a few minutes per day) can help to safeguard your brain against shrinkage and low down the cognitive aging process.
There are lots of brain exercises for seniors that you can start doing today, whether you’re a senior or not.
Exercises like memory games and crossword puzzles help to strengthen the connections in the brain and promote better overall cognitive health. Learning new skills (such as playing a musical instrument) can be very beneficial as well.
Start Focusing on Your Cognitive Health Today
You may not be able to prevent brain shrinkage altogether. However, now that you have answers to questions like “which parts of the brain shrink the most in later life?” and “How can you slow down the aging process?” you can start taking steps to improve your cognitive health now.
Keep this information in mind so you can improve your brain health and minimize your risk of developing conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.
Don’t forget to visit the Health section of our site as well. You’ll find lots of other helpful resources there to further improve your cognitive health and longevity.