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A respite for our aging population?

10th July 2017 Print

As the aging population increases rapidly, the world population and demographic shifts are changing like never before. A sharp rise in most developed countries coupled with improved healthcare is significantly raising the average life expectancy. For example, in the United States, in 2016 was at 79 years old.

The aging population

All these factors have led to a large population of people over 65. In the US, there are 49 million aged 65 and above constituting over 15% of the general population. This number is expected to double to 98 million by 2060, which is about 24% of the population. 

The fact is that people are living longer and working for longer years, which exposes them to more diseases and disease risk factors, especially those related to age. Some of these conditions include brain disorders, hypertension, heart diseases, degenerative bone diseases, cancers in almost any organ in the body, and recurrent infections due to reduced immunity. They are also predisposed to increased accidents, falls, and other injuries.

Aging and the brain

The brain is one of the major organs affected by aging. This is because several normal brain processes are distorted as a result of aging. As the cells continue to age, several changes are noted:

Free radicals: Free radicals are unstable electrons which are produced in large quantities with cell damage as a result of aging or disease. They go on to interfere with normal chemical and electrical processes in the brain, leading to memory loss, cognitive decline, and other brain diseases.

Brain toxins: The normal human brain is involved in excretion of some waste produced by the body. With aging, and continual cell death, these wastes tend to accumulate. As these wastes accumulate, they tend to distort neuronal function and give rise to some of the brain manifestations of aging.

Grey matter reduction: Grey matter is inversely related to age. As we age, we continue to lose neurons and ultimately grey matter.

Neurotransmitters: Several brain functions are carried out following release of neurotransmitters by brain cells. With aging, there is reduction of these neurotransmitters, and as such, brain function is impaired.

The problems with aging in the brain

A summation of defects in these brain processes gives rise to several manifestations of aging in the brain including dementia, cognitive impairment, depression, stroke, parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors. Taking depression as an example, an estimated 5 million Americans live with dementia, and this number is expected to triple to 14 million by 2050. 

Dementia and cognitive impairment alone can lead to a barrage of other health and social problems. They become dependent on others, unable to care for themselves, have increasing health care bills, and are unable to carry on with their jobs. They become more prone to accidents, money losses, and are more vulnerable to intruders and burglars.

Some respite?

Nootropics are natural supplements which help prevent and treat brain disorders. They have continued to show promise in reversing some of the altered brain processes discussed above, and as such useful for providing respite for the myriads of problems associated with the effects of aging on the brain.

Some of the best nootropic supplements have been shown to act as antioxidants to mop up free radicals, help in excretion of some of the waste products in the brain, slow down grey matter loss, and increase the levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. 

Aging, as well as its myriads of problems, have continued to evade our society. But some of the best nootropics might just offer some respite in tackling these problems, even though more long-term research is needed along this line.

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