Despite being a humble three-pound lump of wrinkly tissue, the brain is arguably the body’s most remarkable organ. The brain is a bundle of 100 billion neurons composed of trillions of synapses; it’s the seat of consciousness, emotion, memory, and thought. In the words of scientist Michio Kaku, “Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”
But for being such a remarkable part of what makes us intelligent beings, much is still unclear about how our brains function. What we do know is that the brain undergoes dramatic changes as we age. Seniors often face many physical brain changes that impact daily life. Without understanding or preparation, these shifts can be jarring.
Each March, Brain Awareness Week encourages us to appreciate our grey matter and continue to unravel its mysteries. With research and enthusiasm, we can understand the regular changes our bodies and minds undergo as we get older. We can even pick up a few tips on how to stay in top mental shape during our later years.
Shifts In Brain Form and Functioning Are Normal
From birth to death, the brain undergoes many transformations. A newborn’s brain weighs a scant 400 grams but grows so quickly that it reaches half its adult size in just three months. That’s an average rate of 1 percent each day! By the time a child enters kindergarten, ninety percent of their brain growth is already complete.
But even after we reach adulthood, our brain has many more changes ahead. Aging affects every part of the brain, from the cells and vasculature down to its very molecules. Our brain’s continuing evolution is physical, but the effects impact everything from our memory to our mood.
Our Brains Shrink in Volume
The brain’s volume and weight decline with age, often at a rate of 5 percent per decade after forty. The speed at which the brain shrinks can also increase after the age of seventy. These changes are especially notable in the frontal lobe, responsible for language, problem-solving, emotional expression, memory, and judgment.
There are a few reasons why memory tends to get fuzzier with age. The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation and retrieval, usually deteriorates over time. Reduced blood flow to the brain can also impair memory. Lastly, the production of hormones and proteins that stimulate and repair neurons declines as we get older.
The Vascular System Begins to Shrink
The network of veins, capillaries, and arteries which usher blood throughout our bodies also experiences significant changes with age. As this system deteriorates, our brains receive less blood. This can cause changes in cognition and put us at a higher risk of stroke and ischemia (when a part of your body isn’t getting enough blood).
When facing these rather startling changes in our brains’ structure, it’s easy to feel discouraged. After all, who wants their brain to get smaller? Just remember, though a kindergartener’s brain is ninety percent of its full size, a child has a fraction of the knowledge and depth of experience as an adult. Though our brains naturally undergo many changes, they don’t have to reduce our quality of life or change who we are at heart.
How To Care For Your Brain
The good news is that there are ways you can keep your brain active as you get older. Biological aging is not always tied directly to chronological aging; many lifestyle factors can keep you sharp and spry well into your old age. By keeping up healthy habits, it may be possible to slow your body’s aging and reduce your risk of age-related diseases.
While healthy diet and exercise are a no-brainer (pun intended) in staying physically fit, they can have a major impact on your brain health. A diet high in red meats, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates can harm your health, while a lifestyle focusing on fish, vegetables, and moderate exercise can improve brain function. So try out some healthier recipes and aim for a daily walk.
Another great way to keep your mind in shape is to continue learning new things. Higher education has been linked with better mental performance as we get older, but you don’t need to enroll in college to take good care of your brain. The key is to find mental challenges, whether they’re in the form of an online class, a daily crossword puzzle, a new hobby, or a good book.
There are many ways you can ensure your brain stays in top condition as you age, and most of them you can do from the comfort of your own home. Of course, building new habits is often more challenging than it sounds, and it’s not easy to maintain them without help.
This is where a home caregiver comes in. By taking care of meal-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking healthy meals, a caregiver can give your brain the nutrition it needs to tackle all you throw at it. An in-home caregiver can also help you build a regimen of mental enrichment; getting outside and experiencing new things is a great way to keep your brain active. A caregiver is a valuable resource for seniors who struggle with mobility and transportation. Overall, caregivers are an excellent resource to help you thrive.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.