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Super-agers! How Can You Become One?
It’s a bird…It’s a plane… It’s a SUPERAGER! Ok, so they don’t wear capes, and they don’t fly, but, they do have abilities that many of us wish that we had. Super-agers are individuals who are age 80 and older, but have a memory and attention that are not only above average when compared to their peers but are actually similar with that of middle-aged adults. So, what is it about these super-agers that makes them so youthful? What keeps their memories so young?
Differences in brain structure
Some shrinkage in the brain is considered a normal part of aging. However, when scientists compare the brain scans of super-agers and their peers, they found fascinating results. The brains of super-agers appeared to have thicker cortexes (the part of the brain associated with actions, thoughts, and decisions). This difference could be attributed to super-agers having less brain shrinkage over time. That is, super-agers brains’ may be more resistant to change than the brains of their peers. However, this difference in brain structure may also be attributed to differences in their brains to begin with. If super-agers started with a thicker cortex to begin with, they would therefore be thicker even after some shrinkage over time.
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Differences in lifestyle
While there is the occasional individual who won the genetic lottery and is a super-ager due to good genes, that is not the case for most. In fact, scientists agree that most individuals considered super-agers live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, scientists have spent years studying super-agers. What they found is that most super-agers eat a plant based diet, exercise regularly, have a strong faith or religious belief, get enough sleep, and engage in mentally stimulating activities.
So, what does this all mean?
For one, it means that aging does not necessarily mean memory loss. It is possible to be 80 years or older and still have a brain similar to that of a middle-aged individual. It also means that our lifestyle choices each day can positively impact the way in which our brains age.
What is not clear, is how brain structure, lifestyle factors, genetics, and all the other components interact. It may be that individuals who lead healthier lifestyle begin with a thicker cortex in their brain. However, it may be that these lifestyle differences slow brain shrinkage that normally occurs with aging. Either way, the evidence is clear. We can make choices each day that will allow us to become super-agers.