Brain Rules for Ageing Well Summary
Brain Rules Introduction
Aging is mostly due to the breakdown of our biological maintenance departments, our body’s increasing inability to repair the day-to-day wear and tear adequately.
The human brain is so adaptable that it reacts to changes not only in its environment but also within itself.
Your aging brain is capable of compensating for breakdowns in its own systems as you get older.
1. Your friendships
Keep social groups vibrant and healthy; this actually boosts your cognitive abilities as you age.
Stress-reducing, high-quality relationships, such as a good marriage, are particularly helpful for longevity
Cultivate relationships with younger generations. They help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Dance, dance, dance. Benefits include exercise, social interactivity, and an increase in cognitive abilities.
Excessive loneliness can cause brain damage.
2. Your happiness
The positivity effect is the phenomenon in which older people selectively pay much more attention to positive occurrences in their surroundings.
As you age and realize your own mortality, you tend to prize relationships above anything else. Prioritizing these relationships makes you happier.
Optimism about one’s own aging exerts measurable, positive effects on the brain.
3. Your stress
Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Stay stressed too long, and it becomes damaging to your brain’s systems.
Practicing mindfulness consisting of contemplative exercises that ask you to focus your brain on the present, rather than the past or future, can both reduce stress and boost cognition.
4. Your memory
Some memory systems age better than others.
Working memory (formerly short-term memory) can decline dramatically, causing forgetfulness. Episodic memory—stories of life events—also tends to decline.
Procedural memory—for motor skills—remains stable during aging. Vocabulary increases with age.
Learning a demanding skill is the most scientifically proven way to reduce age-related memory decline.
5. Your mind
Processing speed, the speed at which your brain takes in, processes, and reacts to outside stimuli, drops in the aging process. It is the greatest predictor of cognitive decline
Switching tasks becomes more difficult as you age. Consequently, it is easier to become distracted as you grow older.
Specially designed video games like NeuroRacer have been shown
to improve seniors’ working-memory-with-distractions, working memory without-distractions, and Tests of Variables of Attention, beating twenty-year-olds who hadn’t played the game.
6. Your mind: Alzheimer’s
Neuroscientists have a tough job teasing out typical, everyday aging from abnormal brain pathology. Just because you might show symptoms doesn’t mean a pathology exists.
Mild cognitive impairment doesn’t mean seniors are necessarily on the path to dementia, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s disease. Many seniors live long, happy lives with MCI.
One in ten Americans over sixty-five lives with Alzheimer’s. It is the most expensive disease to treat in the world. The average amount of time people live with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis before they die is four to eight years.
Body and Brain
7. Your food and exercise
Executive function—a suite of cognitive gadgets enabling emotional regulation and cognitive control—tends to fade with age, as the brain’s repair mechanisms break down
Greater physical activity means greater intellectual vigor(improvements in executive function) regardless of age.
Though it is only 2 percent of your body’s weight, your brain consumes 20 percent of the calories you eat.
Cutting caloric intake has been shown to reduce chemicals associated with age-wrecking inflammation, improve sleep and mood, and boost energy level—all findings associated with longer life.
Diets rich in vegetables, nuts, olive oil, berries, fish, and whole grains (such as the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet) have been shown to improve working memory and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
8. Your sleep
Scientists don’t actually know how much sleep you need per night.
Nor do we fully understand why you need to sleep.
Sleep, we are finding, doesn’t have as much to do with energy restoration as it does with processing memories and flushing out toxins in the brain.
As you grow older, your sleep cycle becomes more fragmented
Accruing good sleep habits by middle age (a stable sleep routine; no caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine six hours prior to going to sleep) is the best way to avoid sleep-related cognitive decline in old age
9. Your longevity
Aging is not a disease, rather a natural process. People don’t die of old age; they die of biological processes that break down.
Genetics is responsible for between 25 percent and 33 percent of the variance in life expectancy.
The Hayflick limit is the threshold beyond which a cell can no longer divide, leading the cell to deterioration and, eventually, death.
10. Your retirement
People who retire from a job are at greater risk for physical and mental disabilities, including cardiovascular diseases, depression, and dementia.
Nostalgia is good for you. People who regularly experience
nostalgic stimuli are psychologically healthier than those who don’t
Most seniors retrieve the clearest memories from their late teens/early twenties as well as from the most recent decade of their life.
People who live in “Blue Zones,” areas of the world where life expectancy is the longest, tend to be active, eat well, reduce stress, stay optimistic, and maintain a social life.
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