Did you know that the average American life expectancy is now 78 years? According to the CDC, we are living longer than ever before.
So what’s the secret? The answer is: There isn’t one!
It’s no secret that family health history, lifestyle habits and individual health conditions all impact how long you’ve got, but there is one more often overlooked factor: your brain.
Research has confirmed there is in fact a link between brain health and longevity, although the reason why remains unclear. This link has been the focus of many studies around the world and has sparked the field of cognitive epidemiology, studying the connection between brain health and life expectancy.
While there have not yet been any definitive answers found to explain the link, a few hypotheses have been made that can help guide your lifestyle choices to living healthier and longer.
Optimal Health Behaviors
Studies suggest that those with a higher IQ are more likely to heed the advice given on living a healthy lifestyle — exercising regularly, eating a proper diet, wearing a seatbelt and avoiding cigarettes. Research conducted at the University of Edinburgh revealed that after smoking’s negative effects were discovered in the 1950s, individuals with higher IQs were more likely to quit.
Nervous System Efficiency
Another study tested participants’ nervous systems and found that those with quicker reaction times lived longer than those with a slow response rate. This was done to test the brain’s information processing ability. With quick reaction rates, individuals can act fast when they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Of course, good old genetics has a role in your longevity. Certain genes, research has found, can protect against common age-related diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer and dementia. An individual may inherit these protective genes, predisposing them to increased longevity.
What You Can Do
Based on the research done, lifestyle and genetics both account for longevity. While the genes associated with increased lifespan are still being studied, individuals can continue to do their part by leading a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and safe behaviors can all increase your chances of living longer. And of course, keeping your brain active can help stave off memory loss and depression, two common mental health issues plaguing older individuals. Here are some ways to avoid having a “senior moment.”
- Play games: Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can be found in the daily paper.
Keep learning: Try something new — take an online class or visit your local library for group activities.
- Make connections: If you need to remember something, write it down or say it out loud. This reinforces the connection.
- Engage with others: Having conversations with others allows you to express your opinions and learn from the opinions of others.
- Enjoy music: Whether you learn an instrument or take a trip to the symphony, music stimulates the brain.
- Read: Reading takes you to exciting new places, introduces you to new ideas and words and forces you to remember details to fully understand the plot.
Many factors contribute to longevity, including your IQ and brain health. Keeping your mind active can be a fun pursuit, and can help you meet new people and try new things. Working toward brain health can help with your overall health, and put you on the path to becoming a centenarian.
Live longer and feel youthful, both physically and mentally. Our Vitality Guide has health care tips for older adults, so check it out today!