Are you going to be a SUPER-AGER or just a wreck in old age?
Dr. Rhonda Patrick mentioned research she has studied that concludes: “Pushing yourself past your comfort zone, physically, will contribute to becoming a ‘Super-Ager‘”. See End Note 1
A Super-Ager is a septuagenarian, (70s), or an octogenarian, (80s), who, because of their PREVIOUS LIFESTYLE, has the mental or physical ability of someone who is many decades younger.
A Super-Ager is not necessarily smarter. This is not something that boosts one’s I.Q. However, their brains are definitely much HEALTHIER than counterparts that just slid into older age the way the majority of North Americans typically do. Compared to the “typical” old-ager, Super-Agers, can remember more, think more clearly, react a bit quicker.
Being a Super-Ager is a great way to go into old age. You’ll be much happier and less stressed knowing you can cope better, than otherwise, with all the challenges you’ll face as you age.
I staked my claim to a desire to be a Super-Ager in an indirect way and didn’t know it. At the time I didn’t know that there was a name for this, but I promised myself, and my spouse, that I was definitely not going to look like someone I saw while walking through a shopping mall. I saw a gentleman with a physique that bothered me so much that I swore right then and there that I’d never let myself look like him.
One day, when I was about 30 years old, my spouse and I were walking through a shopping mall and I noticed an elderly gentleman, someone about age 60, walking toward us. He was wearing short pants so his legs stood out, (pardon the pun). His legs looked like two sticks, almost no muscle in his calves and no noticeable muscle in his thighs. The image made me wonder how he was even able to walk. When out of earshot, I turned to my spouse and said, “Yikes. My legs had better never look like that when I get old like him!”
Little did I know at the time, keeping your leg muscles in great shape will also keep your brain in great shape as you age and can contribute to becoming a Super-Ager.
What distinguishes a Super-Ager from a typical-ager? According to Emily Rogalski of Northwestern University, “…they’re on a truly different aging trajectory and aren’t losing brain mass at the same rate as an average ager.” See End Note 2
In one of the original studies on this topic, researchers stated that the difference between Super-Agers and normal, typical-agers is the rate of brain loss. “Super-Agers [was] previously defined as adults 80 years and older with episodic memory ability at least as good as that of average middle-age adults…They have a significantly thicker brain cortex than their same-age peers with average-for-age memory…” See End Note 3 In other words, their brains shrink a lot slower than typical-agers.
Okay, so how do we make the MAGIC HAPPEN?
Dr. Rhonda Patrick suggests we must push ourselves out of our comfort zones throughout our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean trying to click the channel changer faster with each session of TV watching as a couch potato. What is required is to really frustrate the hell out of yourself by learning new skills, learning more, and reaching for new physical capabilities/goals…difficult ones.
Dr. Lisa Barrett concurs. “…Super-Agers share a willingness to endure discomfort to master a new skill, like playing a musical instrument or speaking a new language…keep moving out of their comfort zones to gain new areas of expertise.” See End Note 4
Some suggested steps to becoming a Super-Ager…But start NOW, regardless of what your age is:
- One success factor is the WILLINGNESS TO BE FRUSTRATED. You can’t become a Super-Ager if you are not willing to tolerate the effort required to push through learning plateaus, whether plateaus for the mind, memory, or the body. Push your mind, and your body, to frequently work harder, and if physically doing so, do it under medical supervision, of course.
- Experience things and activities. Do any activity that may be new to you. Do it safely, of course. Take lessons. Teach others something. Learn something every day. Learn a musical instrument. Take acting lessons. Join a charity. Travel actively, not just passively…meaning, learn the history of a destination and seek out the culture, historical information, etc. Work to mastering any new art.
- Exercise regularly–under medical supervision. If your doctor says so, PUSH YOURSELF when you do exercise. Try to do more and go longer/farther with each session, but do so intelligently, (no pun intended). Possibly learn about and integrate INTERVAL TRAINING to boost your heart rate, oxygen handling capacity, physical exertion. How long should you exercise? Your doctor should answer that question for you, but literature suggests ranges of exercise time and frequency from 20-30 minutes per session from 3 to 5 times per week. But you need to design a program in conjunction with your doctor. Every BODY has different levels of fitness and tolerance.
- Join a group. Years ago I read a quote that explains this, “No person is an island.” You need friends and even support groups. Don’t isolate yourself. In some of your activities you may even need what Napolean Hill labeled as a “Master-Mind” group…a group of people who think alike and can encourage steps towards a common goal. Just the social interaction will keep your mind excited.
- Joe Rogan Experience #901 – Dr. Rhonda Patrick. Jan 19, 2017. [Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a Ph.D in biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.]
- “Super-agers: The unique traits of older adults with memories sharp as a tack”, By Megan Thielking. STATNEWS.com, APRIL 5, 2017.
- “Rates of Cortical Atrophy in Adults 80 Years and Older With Superior vs Average Episodic Memory” By Cook, Sridhar, Ohm, Rademaker, Mesulam, Weintraub, Rogalski. Research Letter, Journal of the American Medical Association. 2017;317(13):1373-1375. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0627. April 4, 2017.
- “What does it take to be a super-ager?” Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Published: May, 2017.