4 Easy Steps to Eternal Youth
The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory and certain types of learning. Beginning in our twenties, this area starts losing an average 1% of volume each year. As the years go on, our immune systems weaken, our muscles lose mass, our joints feel sore, and our brains shrink by the day. These, among other potential declines make aging a frightful thought.
Contrary to popular belief however, aging is not the inevitable downward spiral that we once thought it was. Research in a vast array of complementary fields shows that lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, learning, and social engagement have the capacity to not only halt the symptoms we’ve traditionally associated with the aging process, but also to reverse the damage we’ve already caused.
Many of us neglect to consider the full implications of our choices in consumption. What we put into our organism becomes our organism. Cell by cell the foods we consume make up our tissues, organs, and muscles.
Unlike whole foods, which have evolved for millions of years to provide us with nourishment and which possess a notable array of healing properties, processed and genetically modified foods have been shown to cause cell toxicity and genetic mutations that lead to chronic illnesses and cancer.
Science has linked cholesterol to heart disease, salt to high blood pressure, cooked tomatoes to the prevention of prostate cancer, and fruits and vegetables to their prowess in staving off all sorts of cancers. The problem is that despite knowing these facts, many individuals still fail to observe a nutritious diet. Don’t be one of those people. To stay young, intelligent, and disease free, consume whole foods and significant doses of pesticide-free raw fruits and vegetables.
Without a proper diet, exercise would go to naught. However, with a healthy nutritional foundation, exercise is the single most important variable in the everlasting aging equation. Not only does it keep your muscles functioning at optimal levels, but it also triggers biochemical changes that result in the creation of new brain cells and connections to the existing neural network.
In increasing the volume of both gray matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons), physical activity has been shown to exert a significant positive impact on cognitive functioning. In fact, just 3 hours a week of brisk walking has been shown to halt and even reverse age-associated brain atrophy.
Exercise, especially in the form of cardiovascular workouts like running on a treadmill, creates nimble new brain cells that unlike the neurons created during stagnant activities, are capable of multi-tasking and are readily looped into the existing neural network. In contrast to cells created by non-physically effortful tasks, exercise-induced neurons are not solely activated during repetitions of the activity during which they were created, but are able to be utilized towards other endeavors such as exploring new environments or learning calculus. In being able to take on a variety of functions, these jack-of-all-trades neurons may hold the key to lifelong youth and optimal functioning.
While diet and exercise provide a basis for neuronal growth and physical wellness, learning is what keeps our brains alive. The phrase “use it or lose it” adequately describes the lifecycle of our neurons and the connections between them. In order to live, brain cells must be linked to the existing neural network and used regularly enough to maintain those connections. This is why we begin to experience brain shrinkage in our twenties. The parts that start to die off are just not being utilized.
Whether it’s golf, yoga, or geometry proofs, when you learn, you engage your brain cells and create synaptic connections between the neurons associated with what you’re currently learning and those that represent already existing neural concepts. Because the brain comprises much of our organism’s control center, it’s health is integral to maintaining youth and vigor. It goes without saying then that in order to keep our brains and consequently our bodies, alive and growing, we must subscribe to a regimen of active lifelong learning.
Spend time with your friends, whether they be dog, cat, horse, or human. Friendships give us the opportunity to connect, converse & engage. Unsurprisingly, they are a major factor in the lifelong youth equation. Anti-aging research suggests that individuals high levels of social support tend to live longer, fuller, and healthier lives than those with few meaningful relationships. These findings are likely due to the fact that positive social interactions have been shown to result in decreased levels of the damaging stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, the expression of more positive affect, fewer depressive symptoms, and heightened immune function. Fortunately, quantity of relationships is not as important as quality, and animals with whom we are able to form social bonds, such as dogs, can provide a bulk of the positive social interactions on which our health depends.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Diet supplies our organism with nutrients that support cell growth, limit genetic mutations, and protect the health of our internal processes. It not only gives us the energy to exercise but provides a foundation for the beneficial effects associated with physical activity. In essence, growth cannot optimally occur without proper nutrition, and the creation of new, versatile brain cells depends wholly on the substances that we put into our bodies. Thus, as in most cases, what we put in dictates what we get out. Once we nourish our organism and create new cells by way of exercise, we must engage in active learning in order to keep them looped-in, healthy, and alive. All of these easy to achieve benefits can be strengthened with meaningful social interactions. So, get together with your friends, enjoy a healthy meal, have a conversation, and take yourselves for a brisk, rejuvenating, and brain cell boosting walk. By adhering to these simple components you’ll enjoy a lifetime of great health, intelligence, and vitality.
Dagmara Mach is a full-time traveler, yogi, freelance writer, and content contributor on behalf of fitness equipment retailer Fitness Blowout. Currently based in Breckenridge, Colorado, Dagmara is passionate about gaining new perspectives, building meaningful relationships, and exploring the mountains. Combining her education in psychology, statistics, and marketing, she strives to promote rationalism, education, and healthy lifestyles.
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