The Aging Brain

 
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Your brain is like a valuable classic car, given to you the year you were born. Just like a car, the brain can actually increase in value if it is maintained properly throughout time. We believe that aging is not necessarily about holding onto youth, but preserving the best parts of yourself.

 

 

Aging up to this point has meant constant progression and growth. In the midst of continuous cognitive advancement, it’s been nearly impossible to recognize the small bouts of damage occurring on a cellular level. This microstructural damage is incremental, occurring within the cellular engines of the body where we can’t see or feel it. Much like a car engine, small but repetitive insult can cause bigger problems in the long run.

 

Environmental stress causes oxidative damage in the brain and body. Things like alcohol consumption, air pollution, and UV radiation from the sun create harmful atoms within the body. These are highly reactive molecules that roam around obsessively seeking other cellular structures to bind with, even if it means inflicting harm. Cells that fall victim to such damage may become permanently dysfunctional, or even die. Free radicals are particularly dangerous because they are nonspecific, meaning they can target any cell in the body, even DNA.

 

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Free radicals are also created by your own body. Just as a car engines create toxic fumes when generating power, the body’s cellular energy producers (mitochondria) create harmful free radical smog. When damaged, cells may become dysfunctional and no longer able to perform their vital roles in the body. A chain reaction results, causing impairment of bigger and more vital structures like neurons, DNA, proteins, mitochondria, and more. Over time, this oxidative stress leads to the degradation of the brain and its core functions, a process referred to as neurodegeneration.


Normally we associate damage with pain, but the brain doesn’t have pain receptors. Even if the brain could feel something, it would be like a droplet of water landing on a rock face. Harmless at first, but after many decades and countless droplets, a groove is etched in the rock and it will never be the same as it once was. The long term effect of neurodegeneration causes changes in the brain that inhibit its normal functioning, leading to changes in personality, impaired judgement, and even more serious complications.

 
 
 
 
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  • Proteins misfold and begin to accumulate, blocking communication between brain cells.
  • Neurons dysfunction and die over time.
  • Brain tissue begins to degrade and deform.
  • Vessels weaken, and blood flow to the brain is restricted.
  • Mitochondria become dysfunctional and are unable to produce the energy the brain needs to heal and thrive. Upon death, mitochondria
  • cause further damage to the surrounding cellular structures.

We only become aware of the effects when daily cognitive performance begins to suffer. We may begin to notice a decrease in memory, coordination, judgement, or behavior. After all, every aspect of who we are begins in the brain. This is the point where people naturally begin to reflect on their past, and consider how they treated their most precious organ. The good news is, your future begins today, and science shows us that it’s never too late to strive for improvement.

 
 
 
 

Antioxidants fight back to protect the brain and delay cellular aging. Oxidative damage is bad, which means ANTI-oxidants are good! They’re the things that make vegetables taste terrible. Just kidding, don’t tell that joke to your kids. Antioxidants work around the clock to clear out harmful free radicals and prevent damage to other cells. They’re found in many different plants both above and below the ocean, in things like fruits, vegetables, algae, and roots, as well as in many other sources.

 

 Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants.

Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants.

Neurological healing requires a ton of energy. Mitochondria create the energy necessary to heal, but since they are one of the origins of free radical production, they are particularly vulnerable. Therefore, it is important for us to protect our valuable energy producers as well as strengthen them.

 

As we age, brain tissue is vulnerable to shrinkage and deformation. The brain is made of around 60% fat (lipids), which are found in many natural sources like fish, eggs, and nuts. These essential fatty acids serve as primary building blocks of the brain and have been directly linked to improved brain tissue volume and structural integrity. Without these lipid building blocks, the brain is susceptible to tissue loss over time. These nutrients are absolutely critical for neuron growth because brain cells are made primarily of fats. By introducing the proper lipid building blocks to our diet, we are capable of defending our brain from tissue degradation and in the process may actually synthesize new neural connections as we age.

 A simple 20 minute walk can be profoundly stimulating for the brain

A simple 20 minute walk can be profoundly stimulating for the brain

Aging is a natural fact of life, but awareness leads to longevity. Forgetfulness is typical, but leaving your keys in the refrigerator is not. Forgetting the names of people you just met is normal, but forgetting your relatives names or faces is not. We have been taught that cognitive decline is a simple fact of becoming older, but it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be. By making small changes, we have the power to avoid serious conditions down the road.

 

Long story short, the brain is vulnerable but we have the power to protect it! We live in a time where technology is changing the world, so why not use it to change our future? It’s never too late to begin protecting your brain, and preserving your mind.

 

Long Live the Brain