Just like the rest of our body, the brain can sometimes age quicker than we do.
Now researchers at Imperial College London have a way to find out how old the brain really is (O’Hare, 2017). James Cole and colleagues trained a computer algorithm to estimate age based on brain images from 2001 healthy people, then tested it on a new group of people to see how old their brains seemed to be (older adults in Scotland).
They found that people whose brain age was older than their chronological age had poorer lung function, slower walking speed and an increased risk of death. Those with older brains also performed worse on tests of logic and pattern recognition.
“…the greater the difference between a person’s brain age and their actual age, the higher their risk of poor mental and physical health, and even early death.” (O’Hare, 2017).
What makes the brain age prematurely?
High blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol seem to accelerate brain ageing, possibly by affecting the blood vessels that carry oxygen and essential nutrients. Long-term stress has also been
shown to speed up memory loss in older adults. And shift work has a big impact: more than 10 years of shift work can accelerate brain age by around 6.5 years.
Exercise seems to be key to mitigating these harms. The brains of elderly people who regularly
exercise look 10 years younger than those who do not.
Read O’Hare’s article for a fuller description.
O’Hare, R. (2017) Predicting People’s ‘Brain Age’ Could Help To Spot Who Is At Risk Of Early Death. Available from World Wide Web: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_24-4-2017-17-42-52. [Accessed: 12 November, 2017].