Aging can sneak up on people. The body simply doesn’t work as seamlessly as it did when it was young. Wrinkles appear, joints stiffen and overall strength seems to deteriorate. As naturally as the external changes appear, an internal transition may be occurring as well. The immune system weakens, eyesight tends to fade and the brain is less sharp.

Brain health in adults is a widely ranging topic that extends to nearly every aspect of the body. The brain controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process in between. With such a complex organ that holds so much responsibility, it can be scary to embrace the effects of an aging brain.

Most commonly, the brain shows subtle changes during the natural aging process. In a person’s cognitive abilities, remembering information such as names, numbers and new facts takes some time. Depending on the environment, it may be more difficult to focus on conversations while ignoring distractions. Multitasking becomes more of a challenge.

Though it may seem like a mystery as to why names get fuzzy and appointment dates don’t make it to the calendar, there is a logical reason: When we reach our 30s and 40s, the overall brain volume begins to shrink. This may seem young, but it continues to shrink into age 60.

The shrinkage doesn’t happen all in one place either. The prefrontal cortex, cerebellum and hippocampus are reduced the most. The outermost layer, or cerebral cortex, also displays signs of thinning. In rare cases, the production of neurons slows and may even be undetectable later in life. Among 60- and 70-year-olds, dopamine and serotonin production decrease as signs of cognitive impairment increase.

Through all of these neuronal, chemical, structural and cognitive changes, it’s essential to exercise the brain like a muscle. It also puts stress on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Evidence suggests that brains are like plastic. Even as they get older, they’re still able to adapt to new obstacles by rerouting connections in the neural part of the cortexes.

Sharpening the mind may seem like a daunting task, especially when most of the aging process comes naturally and without warning. However, giving the brain a workout shows signs in boosting its health. Activities such as reading, puzzles, language learning, listening to classical music, managing stress, getting enough sleep and eating well can promote a healthy brain. Learn more about the effects of brain health with our resource made by Custom Home Care.