Fitness & Health

How Our Brain Performance Changes Over The Decades


Exercise Your Brain:

  • Dance the night away
  • Do puzzles that involve brain work
  • Learn a new language
  • Learn how to play a musical instrument

Feed your brain with:

  • Colourful fruits and vegetables such as red berries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate as well as beetroot, purple sweet potatoes. Purple is the preferred colour here!
  • Vitamins and minerals A, C and E. B complex for an improvement in energy production in the brain and it will help to boost the immune system


  • Excessive alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Processed foods
  • Pollution
  • Lack of sleep. It is important to rest your brain with a good nights sleep at least 7-8 hours


Knowledge is power!

Ageing causes changes to the brain size, vasculature, and cognition. The brain shrinks with increasing age and there are changes at all levels.

Incidence of stroke, white matter lesions, and dementia also rise with age, as does level of memory
impairment. Changes in hormones, particularly in women over menopause can drastically affect memory.

Protective factors that reduce cardiovascular risk, namely regular exercise, a healthy diet, and low to moderate alcohol intake, seem to aid the ageing brain as does increased cognitive effort in the form of education or hobbies like sudoku or crosswords.

A healthy life both physically and mentally is the best defence against the changes of an ageing
brain. Preventing cardiovascular disease has a direct impact upon the ageing brain. Biological ageing is not tied absolutely to chronological ageing and it is possible to slow biological
ageing and even reduce the possibility of suffering from age related diseases such as dementia.

The neurotransmitters most often discussed with regard to ageing are dopamine and serotonin.
Dopamine levels decline by around 10% per decade from early adulthood and have been associated with declines in cognitive and motor performance.

Moderate alcohol consumption does not present a risk at this stage.

Memory is already not as flexible as in young adulthood and the ability to learn new tasks is slightly compromised.

The volume of the brain and/or its weight declines with age at a rate of around 5% per decade after age 40.

White matter may actually decline from this age, the myelin sheath protecting our synapses
deteriorating after around the age of 40, although this trend begins to reverse after our 70’s
whereby brain cells begin to be replaced by white matter.

5% loss in volume, 10% loss in dopamine.

Studies show that after the age of 50, as well as the shrinking, our brains begin to show more lesions and there can be a decline in memory.

Growth hormone levels also decline with age and may be associated with cognitive performance although the evidence is far from clear.

Vascular decline is one of the biggest risk factors in failing brain performance. This is not necessarily genetic. Risk factors that have been put forward with regard to ageing and development of dementia include hypertension, diabetes and a high cholesterol although the evidence for all but hypertension is far from clear.

Protective factors include diet, alcohol, exercise, and intellectual pursuits. That diet has a part to play in biological ageing and the development of cognitive decline is raised by studies showing that a diet higher in energy and lower in antioxidants is a risk factor.

In women the loss of oestrogen directly impacts upon dopamine and is considered relevant in the
onset of dementia and forgetfulness symptoms. Women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimers which is not just because they tend to live longer.

The kind of memory that are strongest tend to be the earliest eg First day at school and we can also remember how many inches in a foot, but not what we had for lunch. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption gradually accumulates the risk factors for stroke and dementia.

Another 5% loss in volume, 10% loss in dopamine.

Another 5% loss in volume, 10% loss in dopamine.

We can still remember what we did at school but how many inches in a foot sometimes takes a
minute or two. We think we had lunch.

Regular mental exercise, as well as much physical activity as possible, keeps our brains young and
functioning to the best of their ability. Increased fitness shows a direct reduction in brain ageing.

Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption seriously accumulates the risk factors for stroke and

About Dr Khan:
In addition to advocating the importance of being ‘Agesmart’, Dr Khan also heartily recommends
taking time to laugh, to relax and to de-stress, through yoga or meditation, hobbies or whatever works for you, as stress has a devastating impact upon cognitive health. Dr Khan is currently researching preemptive medicine – as in how we can all look after our physical and mental fitness and prevent a decline.

Nov 15, 2020
Fitness & Health

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