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The elderly who hardly age - what is their secret?

We often come across elderly people aged 80 and over, to whom you would not give more than 70 or even less. From a young age, they often joke, are very smiling and sociable, and especially the clarity and sharpness of their thoughts are outstanding.

Take for example the Queen of England Elizabeth II or Shimon Peres, whose cognitive skills were above the norm. Among their prominent characteristics are a lifestyle full of intellectual, social and cultural stimulation and challenges, as well as experiences that enriched their creativity and horizons. Beyond that, the Queen of England and Persia led an active and healthy lifestyle. They walked a lot or  in the case of a swimming prize, ate a balanced diet, read books, learned new things and wandered on social media.

Who are these "super elders" and what characterizes them

This phenomenon has been named "super-agers" or in English SUPER AGERS. These are seniors whose cognitive skills are comparable to those of 60-65 year olds or even younger! Super elders tell of particularly close social ties with others. They go out to spend time together, play table games such as bridge or cards and also train and challenge the brain by solving sudoku or crosswords, reading articles or taking lessons or courses. These activities take them out of their comfort zone and encourage them to experiment in new ways.

Shimon Peres at the Navot Peres inauguration ceremony - September 2016 (photo - Omer Karmi)
Shimon Peres at the Navot Peres inauguration ceremony - September 2016 (photo - Omer Karmi)

Another thing that the super-elders have in common is healthy and balanced eating habits. Precisely because of this, it is surprising to discover that many of them like to "indulge" with a glass of alcoholic drink every evening while smoking a cigarette. However, the key word here is moderation, as excessive drinking or smoking may lead to an increase in the risk of getting Alzheimer's.

The studies also show that super-old men engage in regular physical activity from a young age, which helps to maintain the health of the heart and blood vessels, supply oxygen and nutrients to all body systems and muscles, and also to maintain a normal weight.

Genetics and cognitive function

Undoubtedly, genetics play a significant role in maintaining cognitive function. The genetic variation between people is among the factors that most influence the rate of aging. However, so far it is not clear how and in which cases the effect will be more significant and how the interaction between certain genes and the environment will slow down or, alternatively, accelerate the course of aging and cognitive decline.

Dr. Sylvia Mandel and her father, who is considered a "super-old man". The old men who do not age (photo: Dr. Silvia Mandel)
Dr. Sylvia Mandel and her father, who is considered a "super-old man". The old men who do not age (photo: Dr. Silvia Mandel)

Super elders have bigger brains

Dr. Merle Hoenig - Merle Hoenig from the University of Cologne, Germany - believes that people with high cognitive function have extraordinary mechanisms that are immune to the processes of brain aging and neurodegeneration. Moreover, her research findings indicate that super-old people, compared to normal old people, There is a low load of "tau" and "amyloid beta" protein deposits, two biological markers whose abnormal appearance in certain areas of the brain is associated with neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease - see the article "How to prepare our brain ahead of time".

Cortical thickness

In addition to this, super-old people have less loss of volume in the cerebral cortex - according to the research of Dr. Tamar Geffen from Northwestern University in Chicago. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Geffen and her team of researchers examined the thickness of the cerebral cortex in 24 people with abilities high cognition for their age and 12 age-matched experimenters with average cognition for their age, who served as the control group. In adults who aged according to their age (control), there was a 2-fold loss of brain volume throughout the year compared to the super-old, a finding that suggests that the "young" elderly " may be more protected against cognitive decline or dementia.

Active in the social field

From a post-mortem examination, it was found that in the same area of ​​the brain that was preserved in the super-elders, there was a 4- to 5-fold increase in the number of neurons called "von Economo" compared to the control group. These neurons are found only in individual areas of the cerebral cortex and play a key role in attention and information processing as well as in creating Social connections and self-awareness Although it is not yet known why the same neurons clustered in the brains of super-elders in a certain area and not another, this result may explain, at least in part, their being so active in the social sphere.

In a new study from the same group that was published a few weeks ago, it was reported that another area in the brains of super-old people has larger and healthier neurons compared to their peers with average cognition and even compared to people 20-30 years younger! The area in question is called the entorhinal cortex (ERC) and has been known for many years to be particularly vulnerable during normal aging and in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

The tips that will help you stay young

True, we have no ability to stop or prevent the aging process, it is a natural and inevitable part of our lives. But it is possible to delay or slow it down and thus gain several more years of a healthy and high-quality life.

When I am asked what I recommend to eat or what type of physical activity to do, I suggest starting with small steps, adopting healthy habits and sticking to them at a pace that you set and is comfortable for you. Here is my list of tips for a healthy life:

  1. Persist in physical activity to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, strengthening the heart and muscles which contribute to brain flexibility and body stability.
  2. Meet friends, dance and hang out as much as possible, it adds a few years to life and produces special neurons that thicken the cerebral cortex, there is a scientific basis for this.
  3. Learn new things, courses, language or musical instruments, read books, newspapers. Challenge the mind, move it out of its comfort zone.
  4.  Eat a healthy diet: vegetables, cows, fish, legumes and whole grains, drink enough water throughout the day, green tea, red wine. Eat blueberries, dark chocolate, and don't skip my "turmeric and ginger drink" - see an article on the subject.
  5. Pay attention to sleeping hours, avoid excessive drinking or smoking, maintain oral hygiene and slow down in life.
  6. Be under personal surveillance. Carry out regular medical examinations, especially when you are healthy - important for early detection of diseases and preventive treatment.

Contact Chai here: At watsapBy email

Dr. Sylvia Mandel
Dr. Sylvia Mandel
A neuroscientist lectures and conducts workshops to preserve memory and cognition with the help of a healthy lifestyle. To book a lecture or join brain training workshops: 054-8886184 | [email protected]

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29 תגובות

  1. This result may explain, at least partially, their being so active in the social sphere.
    I think the direction is the opposite. Because they are socially active therefore the level/amount increases in the brain.

  2. Hello Oren
    Those investigating the subject ask many types of questions. It may be that sex is part of the lives of the super-elderly, but there was no significant connection with diseases or life expectancy beyond normal, otherwise it would have appeared as a motivating factor. If it does a person good, then there is no reason to stop.

  3. Shimon Peres had a long life. It's just a shame that he didn't use his longevity to do good to the people and strengthen them, but only for his personal benefit and the benefit of his Palestinian loved ones.

  4. Hello Silvia,
    The article is certainly interesting, but I'm missing one thing, and that is a reference to sexual relations of any gender.
    I have often read that sex at any age adds health and happiness and hence it is also recommended.
    I wonder why you didn't address this issue

  5. An interesting, wise, empowering and very challenging article, thank you. What happens when drugs are used?

  6. Dear Sylvia,
    You always write in an interesting and fascinating way, there is no doubt that aging with dignity means first of all staying clear-headed.. and that is what you should strive for..
    Well done for the information, and the interesting content that you enrich us here.. Shapo???

  7. A very fascinating article, and above all, the research proves that it is possible to grow old with dignity as long as we religiously guard the brain, just as we take care of our physical health..
    Well done Dr. Silvia Mandel, fascinating as always..❤
    Health and longevity to your father..

  8. Amazing! Fascinating and advice for life! I follow all of Dr. Silvia Mendel's articles and always take something "side of life" from them! Recommended!

  9. Hello Orit
    Regarding nutritional supplements, you should ask the pharmacist.
    Regarding the drink, cut about 3 centimeters of fresh turmeric root or grate it
    About 4 thin slices of Zangoil.
    I add lemon, orange, cinnamon stick and green tea notes.

  10. Orthodox people, including people of faith, live longer (on average) and are happier than secular people. This is despite the fact that they are often the poorest population in Israel and the least accessible to modern medicine. It's a shame in Israel that people don't learn to recognize and cherish their way of life and respect them, and they are often presented in the media in a negative way by politicians and celebrities Begrush. The faith, the communal way of life, dealing with spirituality and less with physicality is ultimately more beneficial.

  11. Hello Dr. Mendel and thank you for the interesting article.

    I would love to know which turmeric supplements have been proven to be effective and also what your recommendation is for the quantities of ingredients for a homemade turmeric and ginger drink.

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