Does your brain retire when you do?

Increasingly, scientists are discovering more evidence of the benefits of keeping your brain labouring, long after you retire from work.

Too many seniors resign themselves to the ravages of age. They will find, however, large benefits from challenging themselves in new experiences and competencies,” Senior Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University William Klemm wrote in Psychology Today.

That the brain transforms as we age is a given. Dr Klemm says shrinkage and other physical differences in older brains are caused by shrivelling nerve tracts, reduced blood flow, decreased hormone levels and a lifetime of exposure to harmful free radicals in our environment.

The British Medical Journal explains that, at different stages of our lives, the changes in  brain function include:

  • from your mid-40s to late-50s: your logic skills are eroded by more than 3 per cent

  • in your 60s: the brain begins to shrink and not only is it more difficult to access a lifetime of knowledge and memories, but the ability to add to it also diminishes
  • in your 70s and 80s: part of the brain known as the hippocampus begins to become inflamed, significantly impairing recall functions.

A failure to keep yourself mentally stimulated may not speed up physical changes in the brain, but keeping your mind active will help to slow cognitive impairment.

“We now know brain function need not decline with age, at least for people who stay healthy and mentally active. By the way, research shows that a lifetime of vigorous learning helps prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Klemm wrote.

Allowing your brain to retire when you do is a recipe for a host of negative consequences, such as increased short-term memory loss and problem solving.

The good news is that studies have shown that not only is the link between biological ageing and chronological ageing not absolute, it can also be broken.

For tips on how to keep your brain active and healthy after you have hung up your hat, visit Better Health Channel.

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Written by Olga Galacho


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