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The Truth About Your Changing Brain

The Truth About Your Changing Brain

There are no two ways about it, as we get older, our brains change. We become wiser, and our memory remains intact, but accessing the information becomes more of a challenge. In this article, we discuss the changes that affect our brains as we age.

Written by Lysette Offley

Most people are aware of an increasing problem with memory as they get older, but it doesn’t mean that everybody is aware of a problem, nor indeed that there is one. It’s not true that everybody gets the same degree of memory loss or at the same rate.

Some Brain Myths About Ageing

Ageing does seem to have an effect on your visual and spatial memory skills, but it doesn’t make you lose your memory. In fact, it has very little effect on your ability to remember names, stories, words and numbers i.e. your verbal memories.

It’s also not true that you know less as you get older. In fact, you probably know more. I can’t be alone in noticing parents and parents-in-law wiping the floor with us in general knowledge quizzes. I’ve often asked myself, ‘how on earth do they know that stuff?’

I’m pleased to say that your long-term memory remains intact, and your understanding actually becomes broader, making you wiser than ever. Unfortunately, accessing that memory does tend to slow down a bit. Your processing takes a bit longer.

Contrary to popular belief, our brain does make new connections as we age. Click To Tweet


What We Used to Believe About Our Brains

You probably grew up, like I did, understanding that when you’re born you have all your brain cells you’re ever going to have, and from then on, you begin to lose some every day. That’s what I was taught at school. That was what our neuroscientists believed. Is that what you learnt too?

I remember being taught that you can expect to lose 10,000 brain cells every day unless you drink alcohol!

But if you drink alcohol you can expect to lose many more!

You thought I had some good news view on that front didn’t you?

Sorry about that!

Some New Information to Consider

Fortunately, while we still know relatively little about the brain, we do know that that the old information we grew up on isn’t true. It’s not as bad as that.

We’ve known for a while that each brain cell has dendrites, the long thin branches whose job it is to pick up information from other brain cells, in other words allowing them to talk to each other.

We now know that these continue to grow if you give them the need to. After all, what happens in your brain will be determined by how you use it.

The bad news is that as you age, your brain shrinks in size and tends to lose some of its spark. This is probably because the levels of neurotransmitters, the chemicals produced in the brain, which allow brain cells to talk to each other, begin to decline, along with levels of hormones too. Also, arteries and capillaries become less flexible and maybe even clogged, allowing less blood flow. Therefore, oxygen and nutrients are less able to reach where they are needed in the brain to keep it in tip-top condition.

And stress? Stress just makes the whole thing much, much worse!

So if you want to take action against the ravages of time, you could do well to look at how you can decrease your level of stress and increase your blood flow.

(Hint: exercise!)