The human brain and nerve network works and adapts differently at different stages in our lives.
Understanding how the nervous system changes over time gives you the best shot at keeping your brain working at top-speed and efficiency.
Here’s some key things that you need to know about how your brain changes with time:
Birth to Toddler Years:
- As a parent and caregiver, you have a unique opportunity to shape your child’s brain and nervous system health and function for the rest his or her life!
- The 100 billion neurons in your child’s brain are set to stay.
- Your child’s brain will grow quickly, and it will make trillions, (with a T) of connections to strengthen vital wiring that helps your precious little one sense what’s around them, learn how to move about, filter and process information effectively.
- These years are critical for the development and nurturing of your child’s brain and nervous system
- Constant positive exposure such as reading to your child, playing music and encouraging movement are important.
- Particularly, in this technology-dominated world, we as parents should do our best to limit computer, phone and screen time so that toddlers doesn’t become “too wired,” too early into the internet .
Research has shown that excess phone and computer use can short circuit other brain pathways that are vital for young people to develop healthy communication with others, health sleep patterns, and healthy physical development.
Early to Middle Childhood Years
Your child’s brain has twice as many synapses as an adult brain will have. The early to middle childhood years is a stage where unused neural connections are lost if they are not reinforced.
Therefore, there’s no doubt that your child will benefit tremendously if he or she is exposed repeatedly to activities such as reading, activities that involve language expression, learning different languages, learning to make music and being physically active in safe activities.
Basically, any activity that positively engages your child’s senses can reinforce certain connections that they will need to be healthy throughout their life.
Your teenager’s brain needs only 10% more of the “upload” to be completely wired up. So what’s your teen’s brain waiting for?
- Your adolescent has yet to develop complex neural systems of her prefrontal cortex.The prefrontal cortex is the part in the brain we rely on for making plans and decision making. Teenage years should be focused on the protection and stabilization of the nerve connections as they finally head to the front of the brain where the prefrontal cortex sits.
- Further, this is an extremely important time for teens to understand how dangerous and harmful that drug use can be. It’s not only about what can happen immediately when we take in an unknown drug or excess amount of toxin to our system, which includes loss of consciousness, coma and death, but since your teenage brain is still a work in progress, taking toxins in at this life point sets the stage for future nervous system disease and dysfunction.
Engaging with your teen at this time, (as difficult as it may be) is key. The “teenage support team’s” continued guidance during these years can really help your teen’s brain to make more balanced, independent decisions now and for the rest of their adult lives.
Late 20 to Early 30 Something Years
During this young adult stage, your brain is fully myelinated and developed. Don’t miss the boat! The work to stay healthy throughout your life starts here.
It is the young adult years in which your brain needs to begin to decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s among other devastating neurological diseases of aging.
This is the time that you need to be consistent about recharging and boosting your own brain connections.
This is also the time where engaging in regular healthy habits, such as consistent exercise, healthy eating, drinking in moderation, getting regular sleep and keeping your brain positively engaged are essential in your effort to slow or prevent the inevitable wear and tear on the brain due to age.
Mid 30 Something Years
- During these years, you may notice that it takes you longer to learn new things, such as memorizing words, names or numbers.
- Even just paying attention during structured learning activities is a little harder than it used to be.
- When you are in the middle adult years, it is important to keep up healthy habits, like :
- making sure your sleep cycles are in order,
- finding time to destress,
- do away with unhelpful distractions
- keep yourself mentally engaged, your own needs, and with your family and loved ones.
Mid 40 and 50 Years
In the past, some people viewed this mid-life stage as the beginning of the end! But today, a lot of people consider this stage just the start. If you can stay healthy, this stage of your life includes finding yourself, developing your interests and stabilizing your family.
The mid-stage of life, however, is also the time that memory slips may become more evident. For example, people in their 40’s may notice that mental processing is definitely slower than it used to be.
On the other hand, you have now been blessed enough to build upon life experience that has shaped and honed your decision making ability, as well as your ability to regulate your emotions and shape your social interactions for the good of everyone in your life. At this stage, your mature brain tends to remember and lean on positive life experiences and dwell less on negative ones.
This is the time to hone in on the positive, commit yourself to keeping an open-mind, continue to learn new things and constructing new experiences that can stimulate you mentally for your future and your health.
- Because your brain becomes a little less efficient in its processing speed, preserving your brain has to be routine. This means that even if the business of life has gotten in the way of your former activities for your health, you still must try to:
- Get back to regular exercise,
- Follow a brain and energy boosting diet
- Remain engaged in safe hobbies and activities that made you smile during your younger years.
- This decade is where most people become worried when they notice slower thinking or processing and where short-term memory slips. When we misplace the house keys or forget where we parked the car, it may just be because that we are distracted with juggling many things, but we often become afraid that we are on the path to Alzheimer’s Disease. In the majority of cases, these types of changes are a part of normal aging.
What can you do in your 60’s?
You can think about several things to add to your schedule, such as taking up yoga or tai-chi, joining a dance class, and learning a new language or new computer technology. Check in with your doctor on a regular basis so that you can prevent disease and be informed about ways that you can monitor your health and best preserve your physical and mental function.
Your 70’s and Beyond
As health care advances, our understanding of the brain and nervous system continues to grow, and the future is bright.
Even if you are fighting some of the common ailments that come with age, such as arthritis, vision and balance changes, high blood pressure, diabetes and even dementia, you must keep moving and stay on course.
The focus here is to recharge the connections that will keep your brain and nervous system working at its best.
The same things that you did to fight off serious medical problems, such as regular aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening, eating more fruits and veggies and engaging with other people during “health trips” of your younger years are now absolutely essential for your brain and nervous system to keep working for you.
Even though your may consider yourself “winding down” at this stage, make sure to think about activities such as volunteering, learning new skills and continuing to participate in activities with friends or loved ones. Turn up the music, dance, laugh hard , and get help if needed. Participate in mindful activities that focus your attention on positivity, learning and exploring what you may not have had the opportunity to previously. Be your own brain doctor for your health!