“Can we, as adults, grow new brain cells?” Contrary to a commonly held belief that our brain cells are with us from birth to death, scientists such as Sandrine Thuret have been researching adult neurogenesis, the capability of certain areas of the brain to birth new neurons, or brain cells. Sandrine explains these ideas further in her 2015 TED talk. Some estimate that our brains generate around 700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus, an area of the brain which affects emotions, moods, memory, and learning – a seemingly small number when compared to the billions contained in our brains. However, by the age of 50, our brains will have exchanged 100% of the neurons we were present at birth with new, adult-born neurons. Therefore, one of the keys to preventing some of the mental decline commonly associated with aging and stress is promoting neurogenesis! Here are some of the top ways to try to increase neurogenesis as a senior.
- Learning – Taking the time to learn promotes neurogenesis – and it’s easy to do! Take the time to read an informative book or magazine article, practice a new skill, pick up a new hobby… all these are simple ways to include learning into your retirement.
- Minimizing Stress – more and more, the impact of stress on your emotional, physical, and mental health is becoming obvious. Whatever ways you prefer to destress from deep breathing to listening to music, will boost the growth of new brain cells.
- Sleep – Getting a good night’s sleep not only makes you feel great in the morning, but also can impact neurogenesis! All the more reason to sleep in.
- Physical Activity – While Sandrine’s research took note specifically of the impact of running or jogging on neurogenesis, any aerobic activity has proven beneficial to the brain in other scientific studies.
- Food – not only WHAT you eat but also the texture of the food, when you eat it, and how much you eat of it. Intermittent fasting, or waiting to eat between meals, calorie restriction, and even eating more chewy or crunchy foods rather than soft foods has a positive impact on neurogenesis.