3 factors that age your brain’s weak spot the fastest

Previously, an international team of researchers identified a “weak spot” in the brain that shows earlier degeneration in old age.

That makes it especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.

In a follow-up study, this same team of researchers examined the brain scans of 40,000 UK Biobank participants over the age of 45 to investigate the genetic and modifiable influences on this fragile brain network.

They’ve narrowed it down to three risk factors that influence faster brain aging the most…

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Identifying the worst risk factors

The researchers studied 161 risk factors for dementia and ranked their impact on this “weak spot” over and above the natural effects of age. These modifiable risk factors were grouped into 15 broad categories:

But, of all these risk factors, the researchers found that the “weak spot” of the brain was most vulnerable to diabetes, traffic-related air pollution and alcohol.

One co-author of the study, Anderson Winkler of the National Institutes of Health and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, notes that what sets this apart from other studies is that they looked at the contribution of each modifiable risk factor all together to assess the resulting degeneration of this particular “weak spot” after accounting for the effects of age and sex.

The researchers say these results shed light on some of the most critical risk factors for dementia and provide new information that can contribute to the prevention of dementia and future strategies for targeted intervention.

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Methods for dodging these risk factors

So, what does this all mean for you?

If you want to do all you can to lower your risk of dementia, avoiding the top three risk factors in this study is a good place to start.

Alcohol is probably the easiest to begin with. If you’re going to drink at all, make sure to practice moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a lower risk of heart trouble (a risk factor for dementia). For that reason, one study found both people who drank too much and those who drank none were at higher risk for dementia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks or less a day for men and one drink a day or less for women. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5.5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

The tie to diabetes is not surprising. One study showed people with untreated diabetes develop signs of Alzheimer’s nearly twice as fast as those who treat their diabetes.  So not only is avoiding diabetes important, but so is managing it.

Here are a few steps you can take to do both:

  • Lose weight. This is probably the most important step to preventing diabetes. Research indicates that losing as little as 7 percent of your body weight could slash your diabetes risk by almost 60 percent.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity can reduce your blood sugar and even lower your overall diabetes risk by helping you to lose weight and boost your insulin sensitivity.
  • Adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. This means eating plenty of fish, olive oil, whole grains, beans, legumes and fresh fruit and veggies in your daily diet. It has plenty of fiber intake, which helps you feel full so you lose weight faster and spices that improve the glycemic profile. Big bonus: it contains brain-supporting nutrients that cross the blood-brain barrier!

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Air pollution may be the hardest of the three risk factors to avoid. Unless you live in a truly rural area, you’re guaranteed to be exposed to some level of air pollution caused by traffic.

Oddly enough traffic-caused air pollution has been tied to raising blood pressure and diabetes risk — both of which are contributing factors to dementia and brain aging on their own.

Still, there are things you can do to minimize the damage caused by exposure to air pollution, or even limit the amount of air pollution you’re exposed to:

  • Take a vitamin B supplement. One study shows that B vitamins can reduce the DNA damage caused by air pollution by a whopping 102 percent. Make sure the supplement is high quality and contains at least 2.5 mg of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12.
  • Eat broccoli sprouts. They contain a compound that’s been shown to reduce the impact of air pollution on your health.
  • Start a detox regimen. A detox regimen like EDTA chelation can help your body handle exposure to pollutants.

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Risk factors for faster aging in the brain revealed in new study — EurekAlert!

The effects of genetic and modifiable risk factors on brain regions vulnerable to ageing and disease — Nature Communications

Alcohol and Public Health Frequently Asked Questions — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.