It is considered normal for us all to experience some level of decline in brain functions as we get older. But it sure can be quite frightening to discover you no longer can remember things as well as you once did. And to think that it is normal for decline in memory capacity to occur you may feel helpless and, mostly like a bit (or a lot), saddened by this. All hope is not lost, though. You can still do some things to preserve your brain power as you grow older. We present to you comprehensive information on all you need to know about brain dysfunction in older people, including how to deal with it.
Brain dysfunction refers to improper functioning of the brain, an organ which controls everything happening in the body. The brain, together with other parts of the nervous system, controls virtually everything you do. If anything should mess with the efficient functioning of the organ, you could understand that means your ability to function effectively would be compromised. Your personality, memory and sensation, among others, could be negatively impacted. Disabilities or certain conditions affecting the brain typically give rise to the problem of dysfunction.
Different areas of the brain can be affected by a disorder or damage. The area affected will depend on what brain function suffers. Brain dysfunction is classified into the following based on what function is affected:
The nature and extent of brain dysfunction a person experiences will be determined, among other things, by the point of damage and how extensive the damage is. Dysfunction may be limited to a particular area (localized) or be widespread (diffuse).
What are those things that can cause a person’s brain not to function as well as it should? The following are some of the possible causes of brain dysfunction:
In addition, disorders affecting your metabolic processes, such as hypoglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the blood), can bring about widespread brain dysfunction. Meningitis, encephalitis and other types of infections could also have a hand in the problem. It has been said that the use of certain medications, including antidepressants, sedatives and opioids also pose a risk. Certain seizure disorders can as well cause your brain not to function well.
Your brain undergoes different kinds of changes as you grow older. These range from structural to chemical and genetic changes. Studies have shown that cerebral volume declines with aging. After the age of 40, it is said that brain volume and weight drop by about 5 percent each year. It is believed this rate may be higher in succeeding years, especially after a person attains the age of 70.
Your cerebral ventricles expand in a process referred to as ventriculomegaly as you age. Grey matter declines, but white matter volume continues to rise until around age 40 when decline also sets in. It has to be stated that all regions in the brain do not shrink at the same rate – in fact, some may remain relatively unchanged until the end of lifespan. Shrinkage is typically more noticeable in the frontal cortex.
Changes do not stop at the level of the physical or structural. Aging brings about modifications in your biochemical composition. It affects the number of neurotransmitters in the brain that promote efficient communication between neurons. Dopamine and serotonin are the two major neurotransmitters on which a lot of focus is placed when talking about brain aging.
Dopamine – Numerous studies have shown changes in dopamine synthesis as well as in binding sites and receptor numbers as people get older. Human studies done with the aid of positron emission tomography (PET) have revealed significant decline in dopamine synthesis, particularly in the striatum and extrastriatial regions of the brain. The level of this neurotransmitter is estimated to drop about 10 percent every 10 years from early adulthood. The consequences of this decline include poor motor performance and loss of cognitive flexibility.
Serotonin – Researchers have shown that the levels of serotonin receptors and 5-HTT (a serotonin transporter) drop as people get older. It was also observed that the serotonin transporter had a reduced binding capacity in both the midbrain and the thalamus due to aging.
Among other neurotransmitters that decline in levels with age is glutamate, which is considered a great marker of brain diseases that are aggravated by aging. While these useful brain chemicals are falling with age, scientists say the levels of monoamine oxidase rise. This substance gives free radicals more room to roam unhindered further worsening brain aging.
The symptoms of brain dysfunction that you may experience as you grow older, particularly after the age of 30, include:
Age-related brain dysfunction typically starts with mild to moderate symptoms. If nothing is done to address the problem at the early stages, more severe symptoms develop.
People who are younger than 25 years and those who are 65 and older are mostly at risk of head injury-related brain dysfunction. Anybody can be affected by brain tumors regardless of the age. Your risk of having problematic tumors depends on your genes and environmental factors you are exposed to, including ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, neurodegenerative diseases which cause brain dysfunction are mostly common among older individuals, especially those with family members who have had such diseases at some point.
The brain has innate ability to compensate for any damage that can interfere with its functions. It does this with the aid of two characteristics known as redundancy and plasticity. Redundancy describes the ability of more than one area to perform similar functions, such that when one is damaged the other(s) take charge of the function. The ability of certain nerve cells to change and perform new functions is plasticity. These characteristics combine to help your brain function effectively even when there is damage to certain areas.
However, as you get older, your brain may not be able to shift functions between areas efficiently. Vision and some other functions can also not be performed by other areas when those responsible for them become damaged. It should be taken note of that people do not decline in mental capacity at the same rate. Some people may show no demonstrable signs of cognitive decline in the presence of aging brain. In other words, one of two individuals with comparable brain pathology may show no noticeable clinical symptoms of cognitive decline as the other as they get older. This ability is called cognitive reserve. This is influenced by diverse factors, including genetic, biological and environmental.
Perhaps, you have heard it said before that the brains of males and females are wired differently. It is true. This is why men and women often react in distinct manners to similar situations. The male brain is said to have more connections within each hemisphere. This, among other things, enable men to perform better at learning and executing hard tasks alone compared to women. On the other hand, the female brain has more inter-hemisphere connections, making them better at multitasking and ensuring enhanced emotional intelligence.
Just as men and women differ in how their brains are wired, so do they in how prone they are to experiencing brain dysfunction. Studies have shown that men suffer more from autism and Asperger’s Syndrome than women due to their nature of being less empathetic and having higher systemizing capabilities. But it appears women are more at risk of age-related brain disorders. For one, females are affected more by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is said that nearly 2 in 3 elderly Americans with AD are women. The risk of developing AD from age 65 is put at more than 16 percent among women, compared to just about nine percent for men.
A recent study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2015 revealed that women suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are twice more likely to experience cognitive decline than men with similar condition. MCI brings about gradual and noticeable decline in your cognitive capabilities, including your ability to think efficiently and remember things more easily. This impairment increases your risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Females also suffer more from major depressive disorder than males, with this being linked to imbalance in the level of the female hormone estrogen.
Granted that brain aging is something we cannot escape, it does not mean you should simply sit down and watch as your cognitive capability suffers. There are certain steps that you can take to slow down the rate at which your brain power declines. Let us first consider some of the major measures that can help you fight brain aging.
How many times have you heard the advice that you should exercise more regularly? Probably, many times. This only goes to show how important it is to ensure you stay as active as possible. Exercise promotes good health and overall wellbeing. Of course, this means your brain health benefits as well. Regular physical exercises help to prevent decline in mental capacity and may even enhance your memory. An expert in benefits of exercise to brain health, Arthur Kramer, say fit people tend to have sharper brains, based on findings from a dozen studies by his group of researchers at the University of Illinois.
The benefit of exercise towards having sharper memory in old age was observed in a study which focused on 876 men and women older than 50 in New York City. Researchers observed that participants who engaged in rigorous exercises slowed down brain aging by about 10 years when compared to those who had little or no exercise. It has been shown that you can raise the amount of brain-derived neurotropic factor through physical exercise, with this improving your mental faculty. Aerobics, running and calisthenics are some of the activities that have been suggested as being helpful to older individuals interested in slowing aging effect on their brain. You should aim at having a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
The sorts of foods you eat can either make or mar your brain health. You should endeavor to eat more colorful fruits and green, leafy vegetables. These are very rich in antioxidants and vitamins. These help to eliminate free radicals capable of causing damage to neurons in your brain. Whole grains, beans and nuts are also good sources of antioxidants. A Mediterranean diet – one with lots of beans, vegetables, olive oil and fish – have been shown in research to be highly beneficial in lowering risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. This diet is very rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats as well as polyphenols and fiber. Your brain may also benefit from regular consumption of green tea which is believed to promote memory and mental alertness.
Efforts should be made to stay away from Trans and saturated fats as these release free radicals and promote inflammation which are capable of harming your brain. Avoid red meat, fast food, full-fat dairy products and others containing high amounts of these fats as much as possible. Also, moderate your calorie intake.
It is not always possible to get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat. Some nutrients are also not produced in the body. This reality makes it helpful to find a way of making up for certain nutrient deficiencies. One supplement you need to consider using when looking to improve your brain power is BrainPill. This product made by a popular Canadian company Leading Edge Health contains the best of natural ingredients you can expect in a nootropic of its kind. These include Cognizin, Synapsa, vinpocetine, Huperzine A, L-Theanine and Gingko biloba. A good number of these ingredients have studies backing their usefulness to the brain. What further makes BrainPill stand out is that some of its ingredients, especially Cognizin and Synapsa, cannot be found in many rival products whose makers aim to cut costs. These ingredients can help prevent or, at least, delay onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
You should also consider using a supplement to boost the level of human growth hormone (HGH) in your body. It is well known that levels of the hormone drops as people age. Yet, this substance is very essential for brain health. It helps to repair or replace old and worn-out cells. The consequence here is that you lose ability to replace damaged brain cells as you grow older if your growth hormone level is low. This is why it is advised that effort should be made to maintain adequate levels of the substance in the body. HGH supplements or secretagogues offer a cheaper and safer way of achieving this compared to synthetic growth hormone (HGH). If you need a recommendation, you should check out Leading Edge’s HGH supplement GenF20 Plus. This is made using clinically-proven natural ingredients that stimulates growth hormone production by the pituitary gland. GABA and L-Glycine found in the product are also known to calm the brain and enhance nervous system communication.
Vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3 fat, glyceryl phosphoryl choline (GPC), and phosphatidylserine supplements may be beneficial to your brain as well. They can help to relieve chronic cerebral deterioration and improve overall brain health.
Stress management – It has been widely proven that excess stress does great harm to the body. You should then not be surprised to learn it also contributes to mental decline. It causes shrinkage of the hippocampus which plays crucial role in memory. Stress hinders nerve cell growth and increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. You will do well, therefore, to ensure you make every effort to keep it under control. Create time to relax daily and develop a good sense of humor. You should practice deep, abdominal breathing as this facilitates sufficient supply of oxygen to your brain, which stress may hinder.
Stop Alcohol and coffee consumption – You may get a hand in your effort to guard against cognitive decline by eliminating alcohol. Heavy, and even moderate drinking speeds up brain aging and leaves you more susceptible to having Alzheimer’s disease. Also you should endeavor to cut your coffee and caffeinated drink intake to about three cups per day.
Brain workout – Just as your body weakens in the absence of physical workouts, your brain tend to become lazy when it is not adequately engaged. Experts have described this organ as a learning machine that can be trained to be faster and more effective regardless of your age. There are certain computer-based training programs and games that you can play to challenge your brain. An example of such is Nintendo’s Brain Age. Play teasers, puzzles, Sudoku, riddles and other games that can make you work your brain. Try to learn something new and improve your recall ability through association of people or objects.
Quality sleep – You would be doing harm to your brain if you do not get enough sleep every night. Your body, including your brain, is able to refresh itself when you sleep. The organ is deprived of this revitalization if you only get just a few hours of sleep. You should do everything you can to have quality, uninterrupted sleep every night as this makes it possible to eliminate all harmful substances from the brain. Studies have shown that poor sleep causes the levels of the protein beta-amyloid to go up worsening sleep quality and cognitive decline. To better understand how helpful good sleep can be, next time you are finding it difficult dealing with a seemingly knotty task, first have a restful sleep and give it a go when you wake. You will be amazed at how easy you are able to deal with the ostensibly “insurmountable” task. Adults are advised to have at least about eight hours of sleep every night.
Damage to any part of the brain can cause it not to work efficiently. However, the organ possesses inbuilt ability that enables it rebound from the effect of damage. But aging reduces this ability leading to a drop in mental capacity. You need not just sit back and watch your brain power decline, though. Regular exercise, healthy diet, use of supplements, quality sleep and stress management can all help you slow brain aging. If you are thinking about using supplements, you need to check out both BrainPill and GenF20 Plus. These popular products work in different ways to keep your brain sharp.
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