If you’re near or in your 40’s, you’ve likely felt occasional forgetfulness. “What did I come in this room to get? What’s that guy’s name again? What else did I need at the store?” While not knowing the answers to any of these questions isn’t catastrophic, it is unpleasant. But this is just part of aging, right? Maybe not.
Scientists are taking a close look at a group they’re calling “superagers”, older adults in their 60’s and 70’s, who display the memory skills of those in their 20’s. Yes, we said 20’s! And when their brains are evaluated through scientific testing, these superagers’ brains differ from their more memory-challenged peers. Typically brain scans will show shrinkage in some areas of the brain as we age, but the superagers’ brains don’t demonstrate this shrinkage. In fact, their test results aren’t discernable from brain scans of subjects in their 20’s.1
And if you’re thinking scientists have located some super aging gene responsible for super memory, think again. It appears to be much more about the lifestyle choices these folks make that lead to their high-functioning memories. If you’re looking for ways to boost memory and feel younger, here’s how:
One of the memory-building habits superagers employ is continual learning. Every day, they find new ways to challenge their brains and every year, they pick up new hobbies, be it learning to play piano or chess, dance or act. Whatever your interests are, it appears welcoming them into your life through lessons and continual practice, helps to make your brain stronger. 1
You knew this was coming, right? We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, our health and even our spirits, but did you realize that regular exercise can also improve your memory and feelings of youthfulness? Initial research shows it can and does, and while older folks’ joints may necessitate a change from burpees to yoga over time, the point is to find ways to move your body, for a sustained amount of time, daily. The Centers for Disease Control recommends people over the age of 65, without physically-limiting health conditions, make time for 150 minutes of moderate, or 115 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular activity, plus two sessions of strength training each week.1
Superagers and their brains are up for a challenge, all the time. This concept of pushing past your comfort zone, regularly, permeates studies of and stories about the superagers. Researchers even mentioned doing this daily, explaining that when superagers think, “Yuck, I don’t like this, I don’t want to do it because I don’t know what I’m doing,” they choose to forge ahead. They repeat this over and over again, challenging their brains and bodies thereby forcing them to learn, strengthen and grow. 2
Slowing down as they age doesn’t seem to be part of the superagers’ equation. Whether they’re learning something new, reading, exercising or are on the go, they are not slowing down as they age. When opportunities to have experiences and try new things come your way, take them! This “can do, will do” spirit puts you in places and spaces where learning and growth come naturally, helping to keep you and your brain young.
1 Peter DeMarco Harvard Correspondent, Liz Mineo, Harvard Staff Writer |, Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer |, John Laidler Harvard Correspondent |, Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer |, and Clea Simon Harvard Correspondent |. "Clues to how 'super-agers' retain young memories." Harvard Gazette. N.p., 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/09/clues-to-how-super-agers-retain-youthful-memories/.link opens in a new window
2 "How much physical activity do older adults need?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 June 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/.link opens in a new window
3 "Meet the 'super-agers' who defy the effects of old age." TODAY.com. N.p., 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.http://www.today.com/video/meet-the-super-agers-who-defy-the-effects-of-old-age-911038019855.link opens in a new window
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