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Can You Become A Super-Ager?

alzheimers superager May 31, 2022

Is 100 really the new 70?

For a “cognitive super-ager” the answer is yes.

The term super-ager is used to describe a person nearing the end of the human lifespan with the mental abilities of a person 30 years younger.

Less than 1% of people reach the age of 100, but a recent study shows that those who do so with their cognitive function intact tend to continue on that way for the rest of their lives—even if their brains display the physiological markers of Alzheimer’s like beta-amyloid plaque.

Not only that, new evidence shows that some of these “super-agers” seemed to display what researchers described as enhanced cognitive resilience.

But what makes someone a “super-ager”?

And is it possible to learn and apply what “super-agers” do so that we can protect our own brain?

The good news is yes and what I’m about to share with you today can help you get started!

The “super-ager” brain

Scientists have been studying “super-agers” with the hope of learning more about what makes their apparent lack of mental decline possible with the goal of helping more people enjoy better brain health for longer.

In a 2021 study from Vrije University in Amsterdam, 340 centenarians (100+ years old) underwent a series of cognitive tests for 19 months. The 79 who remained until the end of the study exhibited no decline in measures of cognition, except for a small reduction in memory function. 

These centenarian participants displayed the cognitive capacity of a person in the 70s, whether they were doing activities like redrawing a picture they recently viewed, listing items that began with a certain letter and maintaining attention-to-task.

Notably, participants who were genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s still did well on the tests. 

About a third of the study participants chose to donate their brain post-death. During the autopsies, 44 of the 79 people displayed significant markers of Alzheimer’s, yet still remained cognitively healthy for up to four years after the study.

But how is it possible for a person to have the biomarkers of Alzheimers, yet escape it?

Boston University geriatrician Dr. Thomas T. Perls talked about the study in an editorial saying that, in addition to “protective biological mechanisms that slow brain aging and prevent clinical illness”, participants may have been spared the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms through habits that build cognitive reserve.

In the next section, I'd like to show you how.


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Fortify your brain with these cognitive reserve builders

Harvard University Medical School describes cognitive reserve as “Your brain's ability to improvise and find alternate ways of getting a job done.” It’s how your brain changes and adds resources to cope with challenges.

Research has shown that people with greater cognitive reserve, like the super-agers we talked about a moment ago, are better able to fend off symptoms of brain degeneration. Additionally, more cognitive reserve comes in handy during life challenges like unexpected surgeries or the loss of a loved one. During those times, the brain expends greater effort to help bring you back into balance.

That’s why engaging in habitual cognitive reserve building can go a long way towards keeping your brain healthier for longer.

According to Dr. Yaakov Stern, neuropsychologist and director of cognitive neuroscience at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, some of the best ways to build cognitive reserve include:

  • Regularly socializing with others
  • Exercise regularly
  • Obtaining a higher level and better quality education
  • Choosing occupations that deal with complex facts and data
  • Consuming a Mediterranean-style diet 

Additionally, Dr. Perls offers the following ideas to fend off Alzheimers while increasing cognitive reserve:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking  
  • Minimizing red meat
  • And doing new things that challenge your brain like learning a musical instrument or language

In my past articles I’ve shared several ways to use music to challenge the brain. Check them out:

Remember that supporting a healthy brain and body is a mindset. Each minute invested can mean more healthy years to enjoy life to the fullest.

That is my hope for you and yours.


Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/21/well/mind/aging-memory-centenarians.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2775218

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.655497/full

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2775215

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-is-cognitive-reserve

Disclaimer:

No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your physician. You are encouraged to seek advice from a competent medical professional regarding the applicability of any recommendations with regard to your symptoms or condition.

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