Everyone's brain ages naturally as you get older, but some people begin exhibiting signs of aging earlier than others. Experiencing memory loss at a young age is an obvious indicator that something is off, but there are a number of other surprising signs that your brain is aging faster than it should. In addition to your genetics, your habits can also play a role in how quickly your brain ages, so pinpointing any issues early on can help you take the right steps to slow down the process.
"As peoples’ brains age they ‘atrophy,’ which is a fancy word for shrink," says neurologist Dr. Clifford Segil over email. "When patients are young their brains are plump and go all the way to the inside bony walls of patients’ skulls. As we age and our brains shrink, our skull stays the same size and the brain become smaller. As brains shrink or age some, scientists share that the brain works more efficiently, while others believe certain parts work less efficiently."
As we get older, it's natural for us to lose our memory or become a bit more forgetful. However, this shouldn't happen too soon. Here are seven surprising signs your brain is aging faster than it should.
You might not think your mood has anything to do with aging, but anxiety can actually be a symptom of early brain aging. "Anxiety can be bidirectional," says Ayesha Sherzai, MD, coauthor of The Alzheimer's Solution, over email. "In our practice and research, we have seen that it can be a very early sign of early brain aging, especially if it starts later in life, and it can be a vicious cycle. Therefore, identifying and treating anxiety early should be a priority."
2Difficulty With Attention
"One of the earliest signs often found before the onset of diseases of memory is difficulty with attention later in life, independent of a diagnosis of ADHD," says Sherzai. "Short term memory problem is the most common sign of accelerated brain aging, as the small area of the brain responsible for this task, the hippocampus, is quite susceptible to damage."
Feeling clumsier than usual? Your brain might be to blame. "As doing tasks smoothly becomes unsteady or sloppy, there is the possibility that your cerebellum is getting atrophied," says Segil. "Alcohol affects the back of brains preferentially and many people using alcohol become unsteady. Having this type of unsteadiness without alcohol may indicate cerebellar atrophy."
Vision problems can also be an indicator of a quickly-aging brain. This decreased visual acuity is usually caused by inflammation in the retina and the optic nerve, according to Dr. Barry Sears over email.
If it takes longer to come up with witty retorts to your friends, this may indicate problems arising from the parts of your brain that either understand words or generate words. "Atrophy of temporal lobes can result in problems understanding, and frontal lobe atrophy may results in problems expressing yourself,or aphasia," says Segil.
When you think of aging, it's hard not to think of hearing loss, but if you're having trouble with sounds, it might be more than just your loud headphones. Hearing loss can occur from changes in the ear, but it also can result from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
7Loss Of Smell
Having trouble with your sense of smell? It could be a sign of aging. As we get older, we lose our ability to discriminate between different smells. Losing your sense of smell may also be an early warning sign of Parkinson's Disease, according to Dr. Oz.