40% OFF ALL CERTIFICATIONS! USE COUPON CODE: SAVE40
Menu Close

What Coaches Need to Know about the Aging Brain

Share this article

How to better communicate with someone with memory loss due to agingIf you have an interest in coaching people to better handle the numerous challenges of working with parents or other older adults with an aging brain, you will want to learn the neurological and physiological changes that happen to the brain through aging.

You may also decide to work with older adults and coach or consult seniors in an assisted living community, senior recreation programs or focus on senior fitness programs within a health club.

As a coach, when you better understand the changes to an aging brain, you are better able to coach and consult people who are dealing with older parents. And, if your focus is on coaching seniors themselves, you will learn different strategies, methodologies, and techniques for communication. And, you will have a better understanding of what you can do from a coaching and training perspective to enhance their brain function. As people age, there are several changes that can take place in the brain, some of which include:

Brain Cells (Neurons) Shrink and Die as We Age

As we age, the number of neurons in the brain can decrease, and the remaining neurons can shrink. This can result in a reduction in the speed at which neurons communicate with each other. This slows thinking, cognition, processing, and accessing long-term and short-term memories.  As we age, there are several ways in which brain cells, or neurons, can shrink and die. Some of the factors that contribute to this process include:

Oxidative stress: Over time, the cells in our bodies can accumulate damage from oxidative stress (essentially rust), which is caused by the buildup of harmful molecules called free radicals. This damage can cause cells to shrink and die.  This is why quality, organic, locally raised, and non-processed food has a huge benefit for brain health. It is very high in antioxidants.  Here is some additional information on how you can reduce oxidative stress through nutritional supplementation.

Inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the brain can also contribute to the death of brain cells. Inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, injuries, and chronic diseases.  Inflammation is one of the root causes of every disease process in the body. Some information, and certain cases, is normal and needed. However, when inflammation extends for longer periods of time or is excessive a nature, it can lead to chronic disease and illness. Inflammation is one of the root causes of every disease process in the body. Some inflammation, in certain cases, is normal and needed.

Protein buildup: (see details below)

Genetic Factors: Some people may be more susceptible to brain cell shrinkage and death due to genetic factors that affect how their cells respond to damage and stress.

The shrinkage and death of brain cells is a complex process that involves a variety of factors. While this process is a normal part of aging, it can also be accelerated by certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and chronic stress.

Reduced Blood Flow Hurts Brain Health

Blood flow to the brain can decrease with age, which can result in a reduction in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. There are many reasons why blood flow to the brain can decrease as we age. Some of the most common factors include reduced flexibility of blood vessels.

As we age, the blood vessels throughout our bodies become less flexible and less able to expand and contract as needed. This can make it more difficult for blood to flow to the brain, which can reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are delivered to brain cells.

There is also a buildup of plaque in blood vessels. Over time, plaque can accumulate in the walls of blood vessels, including those that supply the brain. This can narrow the blood vessels and reduce the amount of blood that can flow through them. Think of it like a garden hose that is pinched.

This is one of the primary ways that exercise maintains brain health as we get older. The blood carries oxygen not only to working muscles but to the brain as well. It also creates new neural pathways especially when we do different cross-patterning techniques such as dance, martial arts, or swimming. Those types of movements build the connective tissue between each hemisphere of the brain through the corpus callosum.

Hypertension also reduces blood flow. High blood pressure is a common problem as we age, and it can put additional strain on blood vessels throughout the body, including those that supply the brain. Over time, this can cause the blood vessels to become damaged and reduce blood flow to the brain.

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries, which can reduce blood flow to the brain and other organs. This condition becomes more common as we age.

Diabetes can damage blood vessels throughout the body, including those that supply the brain. This can reduce blood flow and increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Here is some additional information on diabetes that you will want to know as a coach.

Decreased Neurotransmitter Production

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help to transmit signals between neurons. With age, the production of some neurotransmitters can decrease, which can lead to changes in mood and cognition.  As we age, there are several factors that can contribute to a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of the most common reasons for this include:

Loss of neurons: As we age, we naturally lose some neurons in the brain. Since neurons are responsible for producing neurotransmitters, a loss of neurons can lead to a decrease in the production of certain neurotransmitters.

Reduced blood flow: (see above)

Chronic stress: Chronic stress can cause a few changes in the brain, including a decrease in the production of certain neurotransmitters. This can have a negative impact on mood and cognitive function.

Nutrient deficiencies: Some nutrients, such as vitamin B6, are important to produce neurotransmitters. As we age, we may be less able to absorb these nutrients, which can lead to a decrease in neurotransmitter production. Always best to get this supplement from organic foods. However, in some cases, it might also be very beneficial to take a vitamin supplement.

Medications: Some medications that are commonly prescribed to older adults can interfere with neurotransmitter production. For example, antidepressants that work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin can lead to a decrease in the production of this neurotransmitter over time.  For this reason alone, it’s always best to rely on a healthy lifestyle, exercise, quality sleep, and elimination of drugs and alcohol as much as possible to maintain optimal health. Then, and only then, use the minimal effective dose of whichever medication is prescribed by your doctor for the shortest duration possible.

A decrease in neurotransmitter production is a normal part of the aging process. However, it can have a negative impact on mood, cognition, and overall brain function. To help support healthy neurotransmitter production as we age, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet, and manage chronic health conditions that can affect brain function.

Accumulation of Damage to the Brain

Over time, the brain can accumulate damage from toxins, infections, and other wide-ranging factors. This can lead to the accumulation of abnormal proteins and other substances, which can adversely affect brain function. There are several types of abnormal proteins that can build up in the brain and contribute to the aging process.

The buildup can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures. While this process is a normal part of aging, it can also contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline.

Some of the most well-researched include:

Alpha-synuclein: Alpha-synuclein is a protein that can form clumps in the brain, which are a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. These clumps can interfere with the normal functioning of neurons and contribute to movement problems.

Huntingtin: Huntingtin is a protein that can become abnormally large and toxic, leading to Huntington’s disease. The accumulation of this protein can lead to a variety of symptoms, including movement problems, cognitive decline, and psychiatric symptoms.

Beta-amyloid: Beta-amyloid is a protein that can accumulate in the brain and form plaques, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques can interfere with the communication between neurons and lead to cognitive decline.

Tau: Tau is a protein that can form tangles in the brain, which are another hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. These tangles can also interfere with neuronal communication and contribute to cognitive decline.

One of the best things that a person can do to help flush out these build-ups is quality sleep. This is why many Spencer Institute Certified Brain Fitness Coaches also become Certified Sleep Science Coaches. They combine both skill sets to offer a more comprehensive service for their clients.

Changes in White Matter Reduce Brain Function

White matter is the tissue in the brain that contains nerve fibers that connect different parts of the brain. With age, the quality of white matter can decline, which can affect cognitive function.  White matter refers to the parts of the brain that are made up of nerve fibers, which connect different areas of the brain and allow them to communicate with each other. As we age, there are several changes that can occur in the white matter of the brain, including:

Reduced myelin: Myelin is a fatty substance that covers the nerve fibers in the white matter of the brain, helping to speed up the transmission of signals between neurons. As we age, the myelin in the brain can break down or become thinner, which can slow down the transmission of signals and reduce the efficiency of communication between different areas of the brain.  Loss of the myelin sheath is also directly related to a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy. The erosion of this myelin sheath reduces signals from the brain to the muscles of the extremities and can also cause extreme burning, acute pain, and shock-like sensations.

Loss of nerve fibers: As we age, we may experience a loss of nerve fibers in the white matter of the brain. This can lead to a reduction in the number of connections between different areas of the brain, which can impair cognitive function.

Increased inflammation: (see above)

Reduced blood flow: (see above)

Changes in Brain Networks

As we age, there are several changes that can occur in the networks of neurons that make up the brain. These changes can affect how different parts of the brain communicate with each other and can have a significant impact on cognitive function and overall brain health. Some of the most notable changes in brain networks that occur as we age include:

Reduced connectivity: One of the most common changes in brain networks as we age is a reduction in the connectivity between different parts of the brain. This can lead to decreased communication between different regions and a reduction in cognitive function.

Increased variability: As we age, the activity in different parts of the brain may become more variable, which can make it harder for the brain to coordinate different functions. This variability can also increase the risk of cognitive decline and age-related neurological disorders.

Loss of specialization: In a young brain, different regions are specialized for different functions, such as language or spatial reasoning. However, as we age, this specialization can become less pronounced, making it harder for the brain to efficiently perform these tasks.

Increased compensation: As the brain ages, it may compensate for declines in function by recruiting additional regions to perform certain tasks. While this compensation can help to maintain cognitive function, it can also increase the workload on the brain and contribute to age-related decline.

Changes in brain networks are a normal part of the aging process. However, they can contribute to cognitive decline and increase the risk of age-related neurological disorders.

It’s important to note that while these changes are a normal part of aging, they don’t necessarily lead to cognitive decline or dementia. Many older adults can maintain cognitive function well into old age.

Now take the next step. Learn about the Brain Fitness Coach Certification and Sleep Science Coach Certification. You can combine both skill sets to offer a more comprehensive service for your clients while earning a great living working online, in-person, or teaching large groups.

Recent Blogs

Tags