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Mentally Fit at 90

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Mentally Fit at 90

You may be wondering why some 80 to 90 year old seniors fare much better than people 20 to 30 years younger than them on memory tests.


The reason could be that these seniors have a slightly different brain makeup than others.

Based on several studies conducted by different research groups they believe it has to do with the cortex which is the outer layer of the brain involved in thinking abilities such as memory and attention. Emily Rogalski, an assistant research professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine says that a thinner or a thinning cortex suggests the loss of brain cells or gray matter.

This won’t be a problem with these “SuperAgers” as dubbed by her co-scientists at Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. These seniors have brains with a much thicker cortex (when scanned using MRI) compared to other similarly aged groups that had memory decline. And incidentally the groups with memory issues (not associated with memory decline due to Alzheimer’s disease) had brains with a thinner cortex.

Moreso these SuperAgers also have a larger cingulate cortex which is another brain region involved in attention and memory.

It is unclear if these SuperAgers were born with brains with this type of cortex or that their cortex has resisted atrophy later in life. But what is certain is that brain atrophy and loss of thinking abilities are correlated according to Dr. Russell Swerdlow, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Kansas. “It could be that those whose brains are better ‘built to last’ structurally are probably those brains that are better built to last from a functional perspective, or that those who are exercising their brains may have less atrophy,” he said.

Going back to Rogalski’s study she says that Genetics are likely to play a role. “In general, a healthy lifestyle is supportive of good memory,” she adds. “But in our experience, some of our SuperAgers have been smoking a pack of cigarettes for the last 20 years. Others have never touched them. Some go to the gym three to five days a week. Others don’t exercise. Some are still working and others have never worked. It seems there might be more than one route to being a SuperAger.”


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Belina C. Nernberg
Belina C. Nernberg
Belina Calderon-Nernberg is the CEO and founder of 1Heart Caregiver Services. Recently offering 1Heart franchise business opportunities to the public, Belina provided the vision, leadership, and direction that the company needed to achieve its goal of making a positive difference in the homecare industry. As her greatest accomplishment, the company is now equipped with the expertise to expand its business operations to different States in the U.S. Belina brings with her a corporate experience of 25 years, with 15 solid years of experience as CEO of an employment agency and a senior care service company in Southern California. Belina has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of St. La Salle, Philippines. She has been the recipient of several awards given to emerging leaders in business, community service, arts, and entertainment. She has also been honored as an Ambassador of Goodwill by the HiFi (Historic Filipinotown) Neighborhood Council. This title is bestowed to carefully selected Filipino-Americans who are persons of integrity who have the ability “to promote, reach out, influence and mobilize public interest and support of the ideals, values, principles, and programs of the Historic Filipinotown.

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