Ultra Brain Athletes: Cognitive SuperAgers

Brain Training Session #3 – A Series Of Brain Health Articles

Previous Article: Brain Training Session #2 – A Series Of Brain Health Articles

Welcome back, team! As we age, our cognitive abilities tend to decline, but there exists a unique group of individuals who defy the norm. These “cognitive SuperAgers” maintain impressive mental faculties well into their 80s and beyond, exhibiting a level of brain health that rivals people decades younger.

In addition, these high-performing older adults have advanced fluid intelligence, including problem-solving and information manipulation, crystallized intelligence, and lifelong knowledge accumulation, such as vocabulary and general knowledge.

Although it’s an exclusive group, research suggests SuperAgers might be key to learning more about aging and age-related brain issues like dementia.

Our third and final training session will explore common factors contributing to SuperAgers’ remarkable memory longevity. As a team, we will discover exercises to train our brains like these cognitive ultra athletes.

Warm Up: Challenge Yourself

Challenging mental activity can be as important as physical activity for brain longevity. SuperAgers exercise their brains daily by engaging in activities that challenge their thinking and disrupt their “normal” routine.

Our brain ultra athletes know to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Meaning they often perform enjoyable activities that fall outside their comfort zones.

If cognitive activities are easy, there is probably not much brain benefit because our noggins like to be challenged. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy your new challenge, you’re probably not getting much brain benefit either because of the stress that’s caused.

Training Tip: This week, try reading an article on a subject you’re unfamiliar with or taking online or in-person classes. Try your hand at a new language, playing word or board games, or doing puzzles. Attempt anything that gets you out of your regular routine and on the road to discovery.

Adaptability Training

SuperAgers report active and abundant social relationships and often have connections with younger generations which require a certain sense of adaptability

For example, one SuperAger living with his daughter and grandchildren admits that his younger relatives don’t know much about Frank Sinatra or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, you can quiz him on musical talents such as Taylor Swift and Chance the Rapper. He finds joy in keeping up with his grandkids’ interests instead of thinking it’s too far of a reach or a burden.

Training Tip: You can flex your adaptability muscle by staying open-minded about new ways of being and thinking. Try shifting from more traditional ways of communication, such as letters or phone calls to embracing the benefits of online communities and social media.

Activity Reps

It’s well known that exercise is good for your physical and mental health, so it’s no surprise that super-agers tend to be active. Staying active is one of the best things you can do as you age. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases in individuals who are overweight or obese. Exercising twice a week will help lower your chances of getting the disease later in life.

There are many ways to be active, and if you do the ones you enjoy most, you’ll likely stick with them over time.

Training Tip: Try activities that aren’t standard aerobic or weight training exercises but still raise your heart rate, like dancing, swimming, hiking, bowling, or frisbee.

Cool Down: Indulge

Yes, you read that correctly. Many SuperAgers indulge in a nightcap every evening. The trick is drinking one to two glasses daily with friends and with food. In a study by Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or signs of memory problems than nondrinkers.

The key here is moderation. It’s equally important to note that drinking more than the recommended amount would be considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Training Tip: This week, relax with your favorite glass of wine. Moderate alcohol consumption (especially with meals and friends) could help you not only de-stress and loosen up but also boost your brain.

That’s a wrap, team! As with all things, practice makes perfect. As our understanding of cognitive SuperAging advances, we can hope to unlock the secrets of longevity and improve the quality of life for people of all ages. In addition, by incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, such as embracing younger generations, engaging in regular exercise, and promoting mental stimulation, we can work toward maintaining our cognitive health and increasing our chances of becoming cognitive SuperAgers ourselves.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, nor is the information in this article intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases.  We recommend consulting your doctor before starting or changing any diet, exercise, or health-related programs.

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