Unveiling the Secrets of SuperAgers: How They Defy Aging and Protect Their Brains

22 December 2023

Researchers explore the unique characteristics and lifestyle habits of SuperAgers, shedding light on the keys to healthy aging and cognitive preservation.

As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia continues to rise with an aging population, researchers are turning their attention to a remarkable group known as SuperAgers. These individuals, aged 80 and above, possess cognitive abilities and physical fitness comparable to those decades younger. Northwestern University researchers have delved into the world of SuperAgers, uncovering commonalities that may hold the key to understanding aging and age-related health issues.

SuperAgers: A Closer Look at Cognitive Preservation

Retaining Brain Volume and Slowing Cognitive Decline

SuperAgers demonstrate cognitive function equivalent to middle-aged individuals and exhibit less brain volume loss compared to their peers. Using MRI scans, researchers measured the thickness of the cortex in 24 SuperAgers and 12 controls. Typically, normal aging adults experience a brain volume loss of around 2.24% per year, while SuperAgers only lose about 1.06%. This slower rate of brain volume loss suggests that SuperAgers may be better protected against dementia.

SuperAgers: The Habits That Keep Them Young

Active Lifestyles for Physical and Mental Well-being

Regular physical activity is a common trait among SuperAgers. Exercise has been proven to benefit both body and mind, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and maintaining muscle strength. Engaging in high-intensity exercise for 20 to 45 minutes a day can provide SuperAgers with an aerobic capacity equivalent to individuals 20 to 30 years younger. Additionally, SuperAgers prioritize cognitive fitness, engaging in activities such as Sudoku, reading, learning new languages, and pursuing creative endeavors.

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The Power of Social Connections

SuperAgers place great importance on maintaining strong social bonds. Their larger attention region in the brain, rich in Von Economo neurons associated with social processing and awareness, suggests a connection between social engagement and cognitive preservation. While having a strong social network does not guarantee protection against Alzheimer’s disease, it is considered an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

Moderation and Indulgence

SuperAgers enjoy life’s pleasures but practice moderation. Occasional indulgences in dark chocolate, a nightcap, or a glass of alcohol are part of their lifestyle. However, they adhere to recommended limits, as excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. SuperAgers understand the importance of balance and moderation in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Diet and Mindful Choices

While SuperAgers may not follow strict diets, they prioritize whole foods and avoid processed foods. A diet rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, known causes of chronic diseases. Although various diets are recommended for optimal brain health, SuperAgers focus on making mindful choices that support overall well-being.

Proactive Healthcare and Early Intervention

SuperAgers pay close attention to their bodies and seek medical advice when necessary. Aging can bring changes in the brain that make it challenging to discern normal aging from potential health concerns. By taking proactive and preventative measures, SuperAgers aim to identify memory issues early on and consult with healthcare professionals.

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Conclusion: SuperAgers defy the odds and challenge the notion that aging inevitably leads to cognitive decline. By embracing an active lifestyle, nurturing social connections, engaging in mental stimulation, practicing moderation, and making mindful choices, these individuals demonstrate the potential for healthy aging. While some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are beyond our control, adopting the habits of SuperAgers offers hope for a healthier and more fulfilling life as we age. It’s never too late to prioritize our well-being and strive to become the healthiest versions of ourselves.

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