Feel Younger Than Your Years? Good News for Your Brain
Do you feel younger than your age? If so, that’s great news for you brain. Research shows that subjective age — not how old we are, but how old we feel — is an important predictor of health during our later years. However, subjective age is different for everyone. Some people feel older than their years. Others feel much younger.
With this in mind, a team of researchers asked the question: Is subjective age just a feeling or attitude, or does it reflect how our bodies are actually aging? “Why do some people feel younger or older than their real age?” asks Jeanyung Chey of Seoul National University in Korea. “Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no-one had investigated brain aging processes as a possible reason for differences in subjective age.”
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To find the answers to these questions, Chey and colleagues performed MRI brain scans in 68 healthy individuals between the ages of 59 and 84. Specifically, they looked at gray matter volumes in various brain regions. The participants also completed a survey. It asked if they felt older or younger than their age and included questions to assess cognitive abilities and perceptions of overall health.
People Who Feel Younger Experience Slower Brain Aging
The results of the study revealed that people who felt younger than their age were more likely to score higher on a memory test. They also considered their health to be better and were less likely to report depressive symptoms.
Most importantly, those who felt younger than their age showed increased gray matter volume in key brain regions. “We found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain,” said Chey. “Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms, or cognitive functions, are accounted for.”
The researchers suggest that people who feel younger may be more likely to live a more physically and mentally active life. This, in turn, could promote improvements in brain health. For those who feel older, it may be just the opposite. “If somebody feels older than their age, it could be sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take measures to better care for their brain health,” said Chey.
3 Ways to Shed Years Off Your Brain Age
Study after study shows that people who remain active, engaged and curious throughout their lives are more likely to retain cognitive function and brain volume as they age. They are also less likely to experience feelings of depression and isolation.
- Stay physically active. Data from the long-running Framingham recently found that regular physical activity boosts both total brain volume and volume of the hippocampus, where short-term memories are stored.
- Learn something new. You don’t have to become a rocket scientist. Just challenge your brain with new activities such as learning to play a musical instrument or speaking in another language. Taking on a second language, in particular, is associated with positive changes in the structure and electrical activity in the brain.
- Stimulate your brain. Performing brain stimulating activities at least three times a week during mid/late-life, you can add years of protection to your brain. Examples of these activities include reading books, working crossword puzzles, playing games and music, artistic activities, crafts, staying socially active and computer activities.
Frontiers. “Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly: The first study to link subjective age to biological age shows that elderly people who feel younger have less signs of brain aging.” ScienceDaily. July 2018.
Tan ZS, et al. Physical Activity, Brain Volume, and Dementia Risk: The Framingham Study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Jun 1;72(6):789-795.
Osterhout L, et al. Second-language learning and changes in the brain. J Neurolinguistics. 2008 Nov; 21(6): 509–521.
Prashanthi Vemuri, PhD, et al. Association of Lifetime Intellectual Enrichment With Cognitive Decline in the Older Population. JAMA Neurol. 2014 Aug; 71(8): 1017–1024.
Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”