If you are a fan of the Golden Girls, then you know that having good friends keeps you going. According to research, this is especially true for “SuperAgers.” SuperAgers are people in their 80s or older who have great cognitive function, similar to that of the average middle-aged individual. Scientists measured that SuperAgers lose brain volume slower than other people their age because of their active lifestyle, and having close friends.
Social relationships are essential, not only for improving brain function, but also reducing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Study Of SuperAgers
Emily Rogalski, an associate professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, is one expert studying SuperAgers. She, among others, examined SuperAgers for nine years in order to understand their superior cognitive health. The group would fill out surveys every couple of years, and get tests and brain scans done.
The brain scans showed that these older individuals had thicker cortexes, a resistance to age-related atrophy, and a larger left anterior cingulate (a part of the brain important to attention and working memory). Also, out of the surveys given, one thing stood out among all participants- reports of satisfying, warm, and trusting relationships.
“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘if you have a strong social network, you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease,’” says Dr. Rogalski. “But if there is a list of healthy choices one can make, such as eating a certain diet and not smoking, maintaining strong social networks may be an important one on that list.”
Through the study, researchers noted that social engagement was not the only factor in improved brain function. SuperAgers were more active than other people their age, not just physically, but mentally as well. The participants engaged in mental activity such as Sudoku and other forms of brain teasers to stimulate and engage their brains on a daily basis. The last thing is to eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
As people age, keeping up with their social life can be difficult, especially when there are obstacles to go through, such as work, finances, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. However, as you get older, it has been proven that your social interactions might just keep your brain young. Take the time to call your good friends, make plans to see each other, and stay as social as you can. Life is busy, but your friends will keep you young, literally.