The plasticity of your brain is its ability to adapt to changes in its environment. The neurons that you are born with stay with you for your entire life. They don’t have a finite lifespan. Your brain can grow more neurons when needed.
Your brain changes as you learn. The changes can be seen physically, functionally and chemically. The wiring rearranges itself to transmit data faster as you master new skills. Think about the first time you rode a bicycle or skated on ice. You had to develop your balance and coordination – a skill you had not developed fully previously.
You either improve an area of your brain or create a new area to accommodate the new learning. There is a place in your brain you created when you learned to read. This place doesn’t exist in peoples’ brains who have never been taught to read. New wiring is created to access those new areas. This is the basis of plasticity.
Through mid-age, your brain continues to learn. However, many of us stop learning after our teen years. Your brain will change to adapt to your non-learning mode. It will shrink. Loss of brain volume influences your health. You have fewer brain cells resulting in loss of memory and learning ability. Lifestyle changes as you grow older affect the size of your brain. Some of these lifestyle changes are:
● Sedentary behavior
● Excess drinking
● Poor quality sleep
● Cardiovascular disease
Shrinkage of your brain will result in cognitive, behavioral and mental health decline. These factors are controllable. You don’t have to have a loss of brain size by making poor health decisions. If you are very healthy in your 40s, you may still lose as much as 0.4 percent of your brain mass annually. Are there things that can slow or reverse brain shrinkage? Yes! Some things are:
● Eat balanced nutrition
● Lose weight
● Improve the quality of your sleep
● Reduce stress
● Reduce blood sugar levels
● Stop smoking
● Reduce cardiovascular risk