Many older adults often worry about their memory and thinking abilities. As we get older, it’s common to forget things now and then.
This mild forgetfulness is usually just a normal part of aging and not a sign of serious memory problems. However, when memory issues start making daily tasks difficult, like driving or using the phone, it’s a more serious concern.
Researchers from the University of Washington have been studying what helps keep the brain healthy as we age. They’ve discovered that a key factor is something called the blood-brain barrier.
This barrier is a network of blood vessels in our brains that helps protect it. The brain is a sensitive organ and can’t handle direct contact with many of the substances found in our blood.
The blood-brain barrier does more than just protect the brain. It also allows certain substances from the blood to enter the brain in a controlled way, which the brain needs for nutrition. It even helps to send important signals to the brain and removes harmful toxins.
However, as people get older, this barrier can start to have small leaks. The scientists found that these leaks are connected to the kind of forgetfulness that often comes with age. They believe it’s a normal part of getting older.
The study also looked at the ApoE4 allele, a genetic factor linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. People with this genetic factor have a harder time clearing out a substance called amyloid beta-peptide from their brains.
This substance can build up and form plaques, which are linked to Alzheimer’s. The research shows that with age, and especially in Alzheimer’s, the blood-brain barrier becomes less effective at removing this harmful substance.
Another important discovery is about two types of cells in the blood-brain barrier, called pericytes and astrocytes.
As people age, these cells begin to change. The loss of pericytes might be the reason behind the leaks in the blood-brain barrier seen in Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, astrocytes seem to become overactive as we age.
But there’s good news. Recent studies suggest that keeping pericytes healthy might help maintain a strong blood-brain barrier.
Some ways to do this are through regular exercise, eating fewer calories, and possibly through a medicine called rapamycin. These methods have been shown to help extend lifespan too.
So, if you’re concerned about keeping your brain healthy, these findings are important. Staying active, eating well, and being aware of your genetic risk factors can all play a part in maintaining a healthy brain as you age.
This study, led by William Banks and his team, was published in the journal Nature Aging. It sheds new light on the complex relationship between aging, brain health, and the blood-brain barrier.
If you care about brain health ,please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and cranberries could help boost memory.
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