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You know the saying, “You’re only as young as you feel?” Well, there’s a lot more truth to that saying than you may think… especially when it comes to brain aging.
Research shows that the simple act of feeling younger could help your brain age slower. And a slower aging brain could mean the difference between enjoying (and remembering) your golden years versus being unable to care for yourself.
So, how young (or old) do you feel?
Are you a senior citizen who still feels like you’re a senior in college? Or a young adult who’s ready for the retirement home?
If you’re the latter, your old age mentality may be putting your brain health and independence in jeopardy…
Your brain’s only as old as you feel
Researchers from Seoul National University in Korea recently found that older people who feel younger than their actual age have fewer signs of brain aging than people who feel their age or older.
The study included 58 healthy people between 59 and 84 years old. Researchers did MRI scans on their brains and asked them to complete a survey about how old they felt. They also answered questions that tested their cognitive abilities. And here’s the cool part…
People who reported feeling younger had brains that looked physically younger in brain scans. They had more gray matter. They also had better memories and were less likely to be depressed.
Now, there are two ways you could interpret the results of this study…
The first interpretation is that people who feel older are sensing the aging that’s actually occurring in their brains. Their brain is aging faster than the average Joe and that’s why they feel older. But the other possibility is more exciting…
People who feel younger age better… maybe because their beliefs and emotions have a direct impact on their physical body. Or maybe because people who feel younger are more likely to live a mentally and physically active life, which directly influences brain aging.
Either way, it’s no secret that holding positive beliefs about aging yields positive results…
A study conducted earlier this year found that people with the Alzheimer’s gene (the gene that makes you three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s) were 50 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s if they held positive beliefs about aging. And previous studies show that people with positive beliefs about aging tend to perform better on cognitive tests.
So, believe what you want to believe. But be warned… it might affect how you age.
How to feel younger
Will feeling younger affect how your brain ages? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact is, feeling younger will make your life more enjoyable regardless. So, why not recapture your youthful mindset?
How exactly, do you feel younger?
Diet and exercise are a great place to start. If you’re eating a lousy diet and watching TV all day, it doesn’t matter how old you are… you’ll still feel like a 90-year-old.
You should also take an inventory of the activities, people, interests and hobbies that make you feel happy and alive.
Do you light up when you read about American history? Or when you take pictures of your pets? Or when you get dirty in your garden… bake something extravagant… or jam out to Fleetwood Mac?
Whatever makes you feel happy and alive is something you should do more often. Because that’s what “youth” is all about… feeling passionate and excited to be alive.
It’s easy to lose your zest for life as you get older, but if you follow your passion and enthusiasm wherever it leads you, you can recapture the youthful outlook you had once upon a time… and hopefully, you can maintain a healthy brain while you’re at it.
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Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly — MedicalXpress.
Feeling How Old I Am: Subjective Age Is Associated With Estimated Brain Age — Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.