Changes in brain function are a normal part of the aging process; this has been well documented within scientific literature. Some cognitive abilities, such as vocabulary, are resistant to brain aging and may even improve with age. Other abilities, such as conceptual reasoning, memory and processing speed, decline gradually over time. It is important to note that while these changes are normal, and there is a considerable degree of variation for older adults in the rates of decline and resistance.
Normal changes in metabolic rate, the rate at which the body burns energy, and energy regulation are also associated with age. Our metabolic rate naturally slows and muscle more easily turns to fat. Some estimates suggest that the metabolic rate slows down by 5 percent every decade after a person turns 40. While changes will occur, there are activities that we can engage in that will help us to preserve and protect our brain health and boost our metabolic rate. Movement is perhaps the best bet. Engaging in exercise and adhering to a fitness routine can help build cognitive reserve, retrain the brain and boost metabolism — these processes of normal decline can be mediated and mitigated with behavioral changes.
The connection between metabolic rate and brain health is a fairly new area of investigation. Recent research from the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging suggests that lifestyles choices that include “intermittent bioenergetic” challenges, such as exercise and caloric restriction, can increase the likelihood that the brain will function optimally. Additionally, this research suggests that these challenges can help prevent the risk for disease over the life course. While these changes to brain health and metabolic rate are inevitable, there are choices that we can make to help delay the process and related negative impacts. The action steps required involve exercising and healthy eating. Developing healthy lifestyle habits that include caloric restriction or intermittent fasting (going 12 to 16 hours between meals), physical and mental exercise, and reduction of life stress preserve and improve brain health and metabolic rate.
Tips for Improving Brain Health and Metabolic Rate
Move Your Body
There is little question that exercise is good for the body — all parts of the body, including our brains. Recent studies have shown that 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity a week can keep hearts healthy. Other studies have shown that even less exercise is needed to improve brain health. For example, people who exercised for one hour three times a week showed the biggest improvements in thinking and speed tests. There is evidence that supports the idea that for brain health, the overall and cumulative effect of physical activity (aerobic, weight training mind-body activities such as tai-chi) is important as we age for the bolstering of brain health and metabolic rate. Exercise is good for your cognitive health and improves your metabolism. Cardio training as well as weight lifting can boost your metabolic rate and help in the process of turning fat into muscle.
Be Mindful of Your Caloric Intake
There is evidence to suggest that calorie restriction can reduce your risks for many common diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Some experts argue that it may also help people to live to be substantially older. Dr. Ravussin, who studies human health and performance at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, suggests eating 15 percent less calories each day to reduce oxidative stress which are known signs of aging. Furthermore, he recommends starting at age 25 if you want to add 4.5 years to your life.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Rest in the form of good sleep is also a key factor in increasing metabolism and improving the body’s ability to efficiently utilize caloric energy as well as positively impact brain health. Additionally, eating a healthy breakfast, getting adequate amounts of protein and staying hydrated by drinking water are also positively linked to brain health and the boosting of metabolism.
So, to preserve your brain function, get moving, restrict your calories, increase your metabolic rate, and protect your overall health. It is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before making major changes to lifestyle.