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New Study Finds that Superagers’ Cognitive Function is Equivalent to that of Young People

You’ve likely heard of superfoods and supertasters, but what about ‘superagers’?

Though memory decline or delays in recall may seem an inevitable part of aging, a new study found that some people are considered to be superagers — individuals who have largely dodged the brain deterioration typically seen in older demographics. In fact, superagers can learn and recall information on par with a 25-year-old. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted the study, which was affiliated with Harvard Medical School and reported in Neuroscience News.

The research focused on 40 individuals with an average age of 67, who were administered rigorous memory tests to pair words and images; their results were equivalent to or better than 41 young adults, who completed the same test. For the first time, researchers now have images of the superagers’ brains. Functional MRI tests— those that reveal the activity of different areas of the brain as tasks are completed—focused on the visual cortex and confirmed that the older adults’ brains had not atrophied and actually resembled the brains of much younger adults.

Cognitive function can start to decline as early as one’s 30s or 40s— that’s when the volume of the brain begins to shrink. However, as this study indicates, superagers have brains that seem to defy the norm.

Researchers are still questioning what exactly makes the brains of superagers so powerful. Their next task is to determine whether the superagers’ brains have always been this way or whether the older subjects in the study had developed ways to strengthen their brain function over the years. Prior memory studies have indicated that it is possible to improve cognitive performance through cognitive training, which may be a way to prevent the neural decline in aging and allow older people to learn to become a superager.

Though perhaps not everyone can be a superager, there are some habits that anyone can start, at any age, to maximize cognition and memory function. As Envisage focuses on healthy lifestyle choices, wellness and prevention, incorporating these practices at an already advanced age can be beneficial:

  • Getting adequate exercise and physical activity has always been linked to physical health but it is also an important component of cognitive health, as exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain while stimulating the growth of synapses— the connections between brain cells.
  • Exercise your brain, too, by participating in mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles, word games, chess, jigsaw puzzles, and math problems. Engage in lifelong learning by reading books regularly, or go ‘back to school’ by taking a college-level class, either in person or online.
  • Maintain overall good health, including keeping blood pressure at normal levels and lowering risks for diabetes.
  • Establishing social networks and connections can go a long way toward keeping your brain healthy, as psychological well-being is tied in to overall well-being. Participate in community activities; visit with family, friends, and neighbors, either in person, remotely, or on the phone; join a club or an organization; and/or volunteer your time with a nonprofit.
  • Feed your brain as well as your body by eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and lean meats.

For the rest of us mere mortals, memory care is a valid concern as we age, but it’s never too late to incorporate these healthy habits. Envisage’s Personal Wellness & Care Coordinators provide you with guidance and support to help you take control of your mental and physical health.

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