The Aging Brain – How Inflammaging Impacts Cognitive Function

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Inflammaging and the Aging Brain: An Overview

Our brains are complex and intricate organs that are necessary for our daily activities, and we all hope that our brains function well as we age. However, the aging process changes our brains and cognitive functions in many ways.

Cognitive functions are the mental processes that our brains use to learn, think, and communicate. Our cognitive functions are what allow us to make sense of the world and to interact with it in meaningful ways. As we age, our brain undergoes natural changes that affect our cognitive function.

A key factor that causes problems with our cognitive function is inflammaging. Inflammaging is the accelerated aging process that occurs due to chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammaging contributes to age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

In this blog, we will explore how the brain and associated cognitive functions change as we age due to inflammaging. The following sections explore the impacts of inflammaging on the brain and how certain lifestyle factors contribute to inflammaging effects on the brain.

Exploring the Connection Between Inflammaging and the Aging Brain

Older man getting a temple massage.

It has been well documented that natural changes in the brain and body due to age affect our cognitive function. A 2006 review describes that aging causes natural physical and chemical changes to the brain. In general, these changes include:
· Decreases in size
· Less able to form or change neuron connections
· Decreases in dopamine and serotonin levels
· Changes and greater chance for damage to blood vessels
These changes cause our cognitive function to decline. Severe inflammaging causes these changes to happen earlier and to a worse degree. This may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, or even stroke occurring at a younger age. Further, inflammaging increases the risk of depression and other psychiatric conditions.

So, how does inflammaging contribute to a greater risk of these health conditions?

A 2022 study discusses that inflammaging increases the rate of detrimental cellular changes. These cellular changes include:
· Poor sugar and fat metabolism
· Increased reactive oxygen species
· Impaired DNA repair
· Increased rates of neuron death
· Impaired ability to form or change neuron connections
These cause our brains to undergo structural and chemical changes that lead to poor cognitive function.

Further, inflammaging causes other changes to our bodies that can affect our cognitive function.

According to a 2019 review, the second leading cause of dementia occurs due to poor blood vessel function. This category of dementia is called “Vascular Dementia.”
Inflammaging can cause blood vessels in the brain to harden or become dysfunctional. When this happens, your brain’s blood vessels are not able to deliver blood and nutrients to meet the brain’s needs. This causes neurons to die, which causes cognitive impairment.

In severe cases, blood vessel damage in the brain can cause strokes. Strokes occur when a blood vessel becomes blocked or when a blood vessel bursts. Both cause cell death in the regions affected by the stroke. High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of blood vessel dysfunction and stroke. According to a 2014 study, high blood pressure can result from inflammaging.

All the changes listed above can cause cognitive impairment to affect our lives. With these changes, we may have difficulties with:
Memory
Processing information
Thinking clearly
Having conversations
Making good decisions
Depression

One study has found that impaired cognitive function lowers quality of life. So, maintaining our cognitive function as we age could improve our happiness.

Lifestyle and Cognitive Functioning: Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Brain

As discussed in the previous blog, many lifestyle factors can limit inflammaging. Research shows that lifestyle modifications are the primary preventative measure.

So, how can we reduce the effects of inflammaging on our cognitive function? According to a 2017 review, these factors lead to optimized cognitive function as we age:
· No smoking
· Limited alcohol intake
· Getting quality sleep
· Healthy blood pressure (under 120/80mmHg)
· Healthy cholesterol levels (under 200mg/dL)
· Healthy blood glucose levels (under 100mg/dL)

Exercise lowers blood pressure and promotes healthy levels of cholesterol and blood glucose. It is also associated with:
· Better decision making
· Reductions in the loss of brain mass as we age.
· Healthier blood vessels
· Better mental health

A diet higher in antioxidants and lower in inflammatory foods (like high-fat or high-sugar foods) is known to reduce oxidative damage and levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Low alcohol intake also reduces inflammation and the risk of blood vessel damage or stroke.

Finally, good management of your stress levels reduces the impacts of inflammaging. A 2017 study found that yoga and meditation improved stress regulation and reduced the levels of pro-inflammatory markers.

When you incorporate these practices, you could limit the impacts of inflammaging. This can lead you to have better cognitive function and a happier, healthier life.

Daniel Chantigian, MS, is exploring the science, causes, and effects of inflammaging. This blog is the third part of a four-part series.

Discover +40 Ways To Manipulate Time, Increase Your Health span, and Delay Aging, at the Reverse Inflammaging Body and Mind Longevity Summit.

  • References
  • Saraçlı, Ö., Akca, A. S., Atasoy, N., Önder, Ö., Şenormancı, Ö., Kaygisız, İ., & Atik, L. (2015). The Relationship between Quality of Life and Cognitive Functions, Anxiety and Depression among Hospitalized Elderly Patients. Clinical psychopharmacology and neuroscience: the official scientific journal of the Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(2), 194–200. https://doi.org/10.9758/cpn.2015.13.2.194
  • Anatürk, M., Demnitz, N., Ebmeier, K. P., & Sexton, C. E. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of structural magnetic resonance imaging studies investigating cognitive and social activity levels in older adults. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 93, 71–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.06.012
  • Peters R. (2006). Ageing and the brain. Postgraduate medical journal, 82(964), 84–88. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596698/
  • Cianciulli, A., Calvello, R., Ruggiero, M., & Panaro, M. A. (2022). Inflammaging and Brain: Curcumin and Its Beneficial Potential as Regulator of Microglia Activation. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 27(2), 341. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27020341
  • Iadecola, C., Duering, M., Hachinski, V., Joutel, A., Pendlebury, S. T., Schneider, J. A., & Dichgans, M. (2019). Vascular Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: JACC Scientific Expert Panel. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 73(25), 3326–3344. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2019.04.034
  • Quynh N. Dinh, Grant R. Drummond, Christopher G. Sobey, Sophocles Chrissobolis, “Roles of Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Vascular Dysfunction in Hypertension”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2014, Article ID 406960, 11 pages, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/406960
  • Gorelick, P. B., Furie, K. L., Iadecola, C., Smith, E. E., Waddy, S. P., Lloyd-Jones, D. M., Bae, H. J., Bauman, M. A., Dichgans, M., Duncan, P. W., Girgus, M., Howard, V. J., Lazar, R. M., Seshadri, S., Testai, F. D., van Gaal, S., Yaffe, K., Wasiak, H., Zerna, C., & American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (2017). Defining Optimal Brain Health in Adults: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, 48(10), e284–e303. https://doi.org/10.1161/STR.0000000000000148
  • Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R., & Dada, R. (2017). Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 7928981. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/7928981

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Bret Gregory
Bret Gregory
13 days ago

As the founder of DrTalks, I am deeply honored to host discussions that shine a light on critical health issues like inflammaging and its profound impact on the aging brain. The overview provided in this latest blog post on our website encapsulates the intricate dance between aging, cognitive function, and the pervasive role of chronic inflammation.

Our brains, the epicenters of cognition, are indeed miraculous in their complexity. Yet, as outlined, they are not immune to the ravages of time and the silent, creeping influence of inflammaging. This term, which might be new to some, encapsulates a reality many of us face or will face as we journey through life.

The connection between inflammaging and a host of age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, cannot be overstated. It’s a connection that calls for a comprehensive approach to health, emphasizing prevention, early detection, and lifestyle modifications that can mitigate the adverse effects of this kind of aging.

I am particularly drawn to the segment on lifestyle and cognitive functioning. It’s a reminder that while we may not hold sway over the genetic cards we are dealt, there is much within our power to influence. Through no smoking (obviously:), limited alcohol intake, regular exercise, and stress management practices like yoga and meditation, we can fortify our bodies against the insidious effects of inflammaging.

Drs. robert Lufkin, MD and Stephen Sideroff, PhD, hosting the Reverse Inflammaging Body and Mind Longevity Summit is a point of pride for DrTalks, bringing together leading experts to explore over 40 ways to manipulate time, increase healthspan, and delay aging. It’s more than just an event; it’s a call to action for everyone to take charge of their health, to learn from top leaders in the field, and to arm themselves with the knowledge needed to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

In closing, this blog post is a powerful reminder of the importance of understanding the mechanisms that drive aging and cognitive decline. It challenges us to not only seek innovative medical interventions but also to adopt lifestyle practices that can significantly impact our quality of life as we age. At DrTalks, we remain committed to bringing you the latest in health research, expert insights, and practical tips to help you navigate the complexities of health and aging with confidence and knowledge.

Raymond Castillo
Raymond Castillo
11 days ago

So, I was flipping through this article and got sucked into this whole thing about inflammaging and how it messes with our brains as we get older. Crazy, right? Like, inflammaging can actually make the natural changes our brains go through even worse, potentially setting us up for stuff like Alzheimer’s or stroke. The studies they mention here really hit home how much cellular changes and messed-up blood vessels can mess with our heads.

But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom! There’s a silver lining in the form of lifestyle changes. Turns out, just doing simple stuff like working out, eating a balanced diet with lots of antioxidants, and chilling out with yoga or meditation can actually help us fight back against inflammaging’s brain-draining effects. This article isn’t just about scaring us with the science, it’s giving us real-life tips to keep our minds sharp and our vibes positive. So, count me in for some brain-boosting lifestyle tweaks!

Daniel Chantigian
Daniel Chantigian, MS
Learn more

When it comes to complex scientific or medical topics, Daniel can successfully communicate with any audience via writing, social media, lecturing, and one-on-one discussions. Over the past decade, he developed these skills as a researcher at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, as a lecturer at the University...

Join the discussion

or to comment
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bret Gregory
Bret Gregory
13 days ago

As the founder of DrTalks, I am deeply honored to host discussions that shine a light on critical health issues like inflammaging and its profound impact on the aging brain. The overview provided in this latest blog post on our website encapsulates the intricate dance between aging, cognitive function, and the pervasive role of chronic inflammation.

Our brains, the epicenters of cognition, are indeed miraculous in their complexity. Yet, as outlined, they are not immune to the ravages of time and the silent, creeping influence of inflammaging. This term, which might be new to some, encapsulates a reality many of us face or will face as we journey through life.

The connection between inflammaging and a host of age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, cannot be overstated. It’s a connection that calls for a comprehensive approach to health, emphasizing prevention, early detection, and lifestyle modifications that can mitigate the adverse effects of this kind of aging.

I am particularly drawn to the segment on lifestyle and cognitive functioning. It’s a reminder that while we may not hold sway over the genetic cards we are dealt, there is much within our power to influence. Through no smoking (obviously:), limited alcohol intake, regular exercise, and stress management practices like yoga and meditation, we can fortify our bodies against the insidious effects of inflammaging.

Drs. robert Lufkin, MD and Stephen Sideroff, PhD, hosting the Reverse Inflammaging Body and Mind Longevity Summit is a point of pride for DrTalks, bringing together leading experts to explore over 40 ways to manipulate time, increase healthspan, and delay aging. It’s more than just an event; it’s a call to action for everyone to take charge of their health, to learn from top leaders in the field, and to arm themselves with the knowledge needed to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

In closing, this blog post is a powerful reminder of the importance of understanding the mechanisms that drive aging and cognitive decline. It challenges us to not only seek innovative medical interventions but also to adopt lifestyle practices that can significantly impact our quality of life as we age. At DrTalks, we remain committed to bringing you the latest in health research, expert insights, and practical tips to help you navigate the complexities of health and aging with confidence and knowledge.

Raymond Castillo
Raymond Castillo
11 days ago

So, I was flipping through this article and got sucked into this whole thing about inflammaging and how it messes with our brains as we get older. Crazy, right? Like, inflammaging can actually make the natural changes our brains go through even worse, potentially setting us up for stuff like Alzheimer’s or stroke. The studies they mention here really hit home how much cellular changes and messed-up blood vessels can mess with our heads.

But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom! There’s a silver lining in the form of lifestyle changes. Turns out, just doing simple stuff like working out, eating a balanced diet with lots of antioxidants, and chilling out with yoga or meditation can actually help us fight back against inflammaging’s brain-draining effects. This article isn’t just about scaring us with the science, it’s giving us real-life tips to keep our minds sharp and our vibes positive. So, count me in for some brain-boosting lifestyle tweaks!

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