Research shows a big cause of memory problems in older adults

Credit: Unsplash+

Many older adults experience concerns about memory lapses and other cognitive changes, which are often a natural part of aging and not necessarily indicators of serious memory issues.

However, maintaining brain health is crucial as these changes can affect one’s ability to manage daily tasks.

Researchers from the University of Washington have recently shed light on a critical aspect of brain health—the integrity of the blood-brain barrier—and its role in cognitive aging.

The blood-brain barrier is a complex network of blood vessels that serves as a protective shield around the brain.

It functions to prevent potentially harmful substances in the blood from entering the brain while allowing the necessary nutrients to pass through and supporting the removal of toxins.

This barrier also plays a pivotal role in transporting informational molecules that the brain needs to function properly.

In their study, the researchers reviewed over 150 scientific articles to explore how the blood-brain barrier changes with age.

They discovered that even in healthy aging, small leaks can develop in this barrier, which are associated with the mild forgetfulness typical of older adults. While these leaks are generally not harmful, they represent changes in the brain’s protective mechanisms.

The study highlighted a significant finding related to the ApoE4 allele, known as the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with this genetic variant experience faster and more pronounced changes in the blood-brain barrier as they age.

These changes include difficulties in eliminating amyloid-beta peptide, a substance that, when accumulated, forms plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, the researchers found that specific cells within the blood-brain barrier, known as pericytes and astrocytes, undergo significant changes as we age. Pericytes, which help maintain the barrier’s integrity, tend to deteriorate with age.

This deterioration is more pronounced in Alzheimer’s patients and is linked to increased leakage and potential cognitive decline. On the other hand, astrocytes become overactive, which can also affect the barrier’s function.

Promisingly, the research suggests that the health of pericytes can be supported through lifestyle choices similar to those that promote overall longevity.

Regular physical activity, dietary restriction, and certain medications like rapamycin have shown potential in preserving the function of these crucial cells.

This comprehensive review, published in Nature Aging and led by William Banks, points to the blood-brain barrier as a key player in the aging process and its impact on cognitive health.

It provides valuable insights into why maintaining this barrier’s integrity is vital for preventing significant memory problems and underscores the potential of lifestyle interventions in supporting brain health as we age.

The findings offer hope and guidance for those looking to protect their cognitive functions into older age, emphasizing that while some memory changes are normal, there are proactive steps that can be taken to minimize their impact and maintain a healthy, active brain.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and cranberries could help boost memory.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about heartburn drugs that could increase risk of dementia, and results showing this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, prevent dementia.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.