How to Young and Stay Young

Ben Douglas, professor at the University of Mississippi Medical School at Jackson, once said, “You’re as young as you think.”

Apparently, if you think you are young, you will stay young. Thinking young is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But the problem is: How to think young and stay young.

Aging is gradual, but inevitable. Aging has a direct debilitating effect on your brain. Free radicals can damage your brain over decades of changes: when you reach 65, your brain cells undergo many more mutations than they did in your younger years. These cumulative changes may bring about a neurological disease, such as dementia.

If that is the case, then how do you think young?

Firstly, you need to understand that age does not affect your intelligence. Intelligence is general cognitive power in processing new information and making logical decisions based on the information acquired. If your brain is healthy, it is capable of performing all these cognitive functions, and much more, because the potential of the human brain is never fully harnessed and utilized.

Research studies have demonstrated that your brain has the same amount of cognitive “reserves” even when you reach old age; in other words, your cognitive functions remain almost intact even if there is cumulative damage due to free radicals. However, when the cumulative damage reaches a certain “critical” point, then signs and symptoms of dementia may begin to surface.

The evident moral lesson: Prevent the onset of gradual cumulative damage; don’t wait till you have acquired some form of dementia before you take any positive action. Do something about it NOW!

Simply, thinking young makes you stay young.

Drugs (such as estrogen, testosterone and DHEA hormone replacement therapies) may slow down the mutations of brain cells, thereby keeping your brain healthy.

Brain exercises can promote “synaptic plasticity.” Synapses are unstable entities in your brain, and they can adapt to any change in neurons. Essentially, synaptic plasticity means “use it or lose it.” Inputting more information promotes synaptic plasticity; that is to say, it gives your brain more work to do, such as memorizing and processing information. Brain exercises, like any type of physical exercise, require consistency and regularity in order to be beneficial and effective. To achieve this, it is important to make your brain exercises interesting with variety. Just as cross-training of a variety of muscle groups will lead to overall physical fitness, cross-training of different cognitive functions of the brain will contribute to optimum brain fitness.

To increase cognitive functions of your brain, try learning a new language. Research has shown that bilinguals who regularly use two languages have better protection against the onset of dementia than those who use only one language. The reason is that learning a new language requires symbol decoding, memorizing, and even abstract reasoning – which are all important cognitive functions of a healthy brain.

Aside from learning a new language, taking up a new sport, such as tennis or golf, or playing a new musical instrument also contributes to optimum cognitive functioning, because these activities require concentration, memorization, and coordination of motor skills, which benefit your brain cells.

Other than brain exercises, the first line of defense against the demise of brain cells may include using antioxidants and supplements to combat free radicals, which damage brain cells over time. These antioxidants include beta carotene, carotenoids, vitamins E and C, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, and pycnogenol.