With aging typically comes symptoms such as cognitive decline and memory loss. However, SuperAgers are older people with much lower rates of these symptoms. They are outperforming their peers and showing no signs of slowing down. What is their antiaging secret, and how can they help teach all of us to age gracefully? We investigate what they have in common and the health habits they follow.
According to Northwestern Medicine, a SuperAger is “someone in their 80s or older who exhibits cognitive function that is comparable to that of an average middle-aged individual.” Another key feature of this group, as shown in research findings, is that they have decreased brain volume loss.
In one study, researchers utilized MRI scans to assess how thick the cortex was in two batches of study participants. This included 24 SuperAgers, along with 12 participants in a control group.
It’s typical for an aging adult to lose about 2.24% of brain volume annually. However, SuperAgers tend to lose only approximately 1.06% of brain volume.
Researchers indicated that the slower brain volume loss in SuperAgers in comparison to the control group could mean that SuperAgers have greater protection against developing dementia.
In simple terms, a common sign of being a SuperAger is that your memory is sharper than other people in your age group. However, there are several factors that can be used to categorize someone as a SuperAger. These factors include:
SuperAgers usually follow certain healthy habits that are believed to play a key role in maintaining their youthful cognitive abilities.
SuperAgers tend to have a higher than normal aerobic capacity compared to others in their age group. Aerobic capacity refers to the degree of oxygen intake and distribution to the tissues throughout the body. After the age of 30, a person loses on average, 10% of their aerobic capacity with each decade.
Additionally, studies have suggested that persons over 80 years of age who participate in high-intensity exercise for 20 to 45 minutes daily have an aerobic capacity that matches that of people 30 years younger.
This regular activity is beneficial for heart health, blood flow, and maintenance of muscle strength. This helps the aging individual by making them much stronger and less prone to age-related accidents or injuries, like falls. Also, physical activity increases a person’s oxygen intake, helps with the maintenance of a healthy weight, and supports brain health. If an aging person has a BMI of more than 30, he or she triples his or her risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.
SuperAgers tend to stimulate their minds as well. A big part of mental activity is continually challenging the mind. They are usually engaged in brain-stimulating activities such as playing mind games and puzzles, reading new books, and learning a foreign language. You may also find them dabbling in the arts, including pottery, drawing, and painting. Seeking out new interests and learning new things is important.
The social life of SuperAgers is typically an active one. They enjoy a range of social activities. They not only create and maintain strong bonds and relationships with family but friends as well. The area of the brain that deals with social processing and awareness is shown to be larger in SuperAgers.
Specifically, in SuperAgers, the von Economo neurons are over 4 to 5 times greater than in the typical octogenarian according to research findings presented in Northwestern Medicine. Having vibrant social networks appears to help these neurons as you age.
SuperAgers are not afraid to indulge a little and enjoy living. However, they understand that indulgence requires moderation to ensure that balance is maintained. Some common things that they usually indulge in include eating some dark chocolate on occasion and enjoying a glass of wine. However, SuperAgers usually indulge less than the recommended upper limit.
While there are certain diets that have been linked to promoting optimum brain health, such as plant-based diets, SuperAgers tend to not follow any of these strictly.
The recommended diet for healthy aging involves nutrient-rich foods including fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, berries, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, while avoiding processed foods and sugar. This diet minimizes the risk of inflammation and oxidative stress.
Self-awareness and listening to your body are key to knowing when to seek medical care. This is something SuperAgers exhibit. It involves mindfulness being willing to act when they notice something is off with their body. When signs appear that indicate a health issue, SuperAgers usually go to their doctor before the condition can worsen.
For example, noticing issues with memory early on can help you to address the problem with your doctor before it becomes severe. Being proactive and taking preventative measures can help you to maintain optimal health as you age.
Stress plays a crucial role in the aging process on a physical level and can lead to living an unhealthy lifestyle. As a consequence, this can worsen the aging process. Signs of stress can begin to show on a cellular level and lead to changes in your brain and body.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition caused by chronic stress that can negatively impact aging if it’s not managed properly. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response is responsible for handling chronic stress with the help of the adrenal glands. It produces the hormone called cortisol. As AFS advances, the body is able to produce less and less cortisol, leading to inflammation, hormone imbalance, heart problems, cognitive decline, and a host of other symptoms, many of which are associated with aging.
The SuperAger needs to keep stress and inflammation at bay to maintain their above-average health. Thus, it is key to address stress and symptoms of AFS to stay healthy as you age.
There are several things that you can do to try and slow brain aging and in turn, keep cognitive decline at bay.
SuperAgers are in a league of their own and are still being studied. However, what’s clear is that their physical and cognitive health is notable and makes them a fascinating group. While we may not all be able to be SuperAgers, adopting healthy habits like staying physically and socially active, learning new skills, eating a healthy diet, and only indulging occasionally, may help you age gracefully.
If you are concerned about premature aging and would like assistance in determining natural ways to slow the aging process, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
SuperAgers are people over 80 years of age whose brains are aging at a rate much slower than their average peers. Their health habits include regular physical activities, stimulating their brains, a balanced diet, an active social life, keeping stress at bay, and staying aware of their physical health.