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Last updated January 20, 2017 (originally published August 4, 2014)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial
Board.]











Nothing stays the same and unfortunately that includes
your brain.

As you age, your brain shrinks at the rate of around 5
percent per decade after 40 (Göteborg University, Sweden,
1997) – the volume and the weight of the brain is proven
to decline.

The decline speeds up when you hit 70 years of age,
according to a 2003 study from University College London,
England. Normal aging and conditions like Alzheimer’s
disease cause brain shrinkage, causing simple problems like
memory loss and lack of focus, to serious conditions like
dementia.

Must you accept this loss of gray cells as a natural part of
getting older? What do you need to watch out for when
you hit your forties and beyond to help prevent brain
shrinkage?

Why Does Your Brain Shrink?

The brain is still a relatively mysterious entity and scientists
are not certain exactly how or why the brain shrinks as you
get older.

Shrinkage of gray matter can stem from cell death in the
brain, or a decline in the volume of neurons in the brain.
According to the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), brain shrinkage or "cerebral
atrophy" means the loss of neurons in the brain and the
connections between them.

Brain shrinkage can be generalized – all over the brain – or
affect small areas of the brain only.

Brain shrinkage is a common sign of many diseases that
harm the brain, such as
stroke, high blood pressure,
traumatic brain injury, Huntingdon’s disease,
multiple
sclerosis, and AIDS.

Alzheimer's disease is a relatively common condition where
the brain shrinks and plaques form around neurons that
disrupt their actions.

What Are The Symptoms of Brain Shrinkage?

If the cerebral hemispheres of the brain are affected by
shrinkage, your conscious thought processes and voluntary
processes may be affected.

Brain shrinkage may result in dementia, language
disorders, poor memory, seizures, or other problems with
spatial perception and executive functions like organization
and planning.

Someone who used to be an expert driver may suddenly
start forgetting how to drive a particular favorite route.
Someone who likes to sing may start forgetting lyrics.  
Legendary actors such as Omar Shariff and Sir Michael
Gambon (Harry Potter's Professor Dumblefore) began to
forget lines that once knew by heart, forgetfulness.

Is It All Bad News for Your Brain?

It has commonly been said that our brains naturally get
smaller as we age, but according to a 2009 study from
Maastricht University in the Netherlands, if your brain is
healthy as you age there is likely to be little sign of brain
shrinkage. The researchers stated that a lot of previous
research overestimated how much the brain shrinks with
age because studies failed to exclude people with brain
diseases such as dementia.

Researchers stressed the importance of keeping the brain
active and healthy throughout life.

We looked at other recent scientific evidence to bring you
the seven things you need to avoid to stop brain shrinkage
and prevent dementia and other cognitive problems as you
get older.

























1.
A High Protein Diet Makes Your Brain Shrink?

Eating a high protein, low carb diet could cause your brain
to shrink, researchers led by a team from The Mount Sinai
School of Medicine in New York City found in 2009. The
scientists were studying the brains of mice for research into
Alzheimer’s disease when they came across this diet link.
The brains of mice fed the high protein diet were 5 percent
lighter than those fed other diets.

2.
Stress and Anxiety Cause the Brain to Shrink

It’s bad news for your brain if you suffer from major
depression or chronic stress.

According to a 2012 study from Yale University, these
conditions can cause your brain to shrink, leading to
cognitive impairment.

Stress and depression cause a loss of brain connections,
which disrupts the formation of cells and can contribute to
loss of brain mass, the scientists found.  (Read more about
10 foods that fight depression.)

3.
High Blood Pressure Can Shrink Your Brain

Chronic hypertension reduces the total volume of gray
matter and white matter in your brain, reports have found.
(Read more about the connection between
high blood
pressure and brain volume shrinkage.).

4.
Chronic Back Pain Shrinks the Brain

Experiencing chronic back pain can shrink the areas of the
brain that helps decision-making and social interaction,
according to a 2004 study from Northwestern University.

Out of the 52 people studied, those with back pain showed
less activity in the thalamus and experienced brain
shrinkage of up to 11 percent, which is equivalent to the
normal shrinkage of the brain over 10 to 20 years of aging.

Scientists don’t know whether the loss is permanent but it
is clear that getting treatment for back pain can help
reverse the decline.

5.
Obesity Makes Your Brain Shrink

Piling on the pounds not only damages your heart and your
joints, being obese can also cause your brain to shrink.

Obesity speeds up brain shrinkage to the equivalent of
around 16 years of aging, according to 2011 research from
the University of Los Angeles.  

The brains of obese subjects were around 4 to 8 percent
smaller than those who were at a healthy weight.

Fat not only clogs the arteries in your body, it also affects
the blood vessels in your brain, leading to oxygen
starvation that results in the death of brain matter.

6.
Your Brain Shrinks More If You are a Smoker

Along with obesity, smoking has also been revealed as a
brain damager. If you need a reason to quit smoking, add
brain shrinkage to the list.

Research in 2011 from the University of California at Davis
in Sacramento discovered that smoking causes your
hippocampus to shrink.

According to the scientists, “smokers lost brain volume
overall and in the hippocampus at a faster rate than non-
smokers.”

[Update:
New research has also linked high levels of pollution with
lower brain volume and rapid brain aging.

The 2015 study, lead by Dr. Elissa Wilker of Harvard-
affiliated Beth Israel Deacon Medical Center, studied 1000
non-smokers over 60 and found that those who live close
to major highways and streets had lower brain volume.
These people were also at a 46% higher risk for strokes.]

7.
Wine is Bad for your Brain?

Researchers at Göttingen University, Germany found in
2008 that alcohol may cause your brain to shrink – but that
wine makes a bigger difference to your brain than beer.
The hippocampus, the area of the brain that involved
memory and spatial tasks among other functions, was 10
percent smaller in people who regularly drank wine that
those who preferred beer.



Bonus:

[8.
Cold and Allergy Medicines Can Shrink Your Brain

Certain common over-the-counter medications can shrink
your brain, scientists have found.

Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine
discovered that medications which have an "anti-
cholinergic effect" have a side effect of shrinking the white
matter of your brain.  

An anti-cholinergic effect means In 2016, Dr. Shannon
Risacher and Dr. Brenna McDonald the scientists discovered
that those who are middle-aged or older  who took these
medications had less brain matter.

As the scientists put it, the participants had "total cortical
volume and temporal lobe cortical thickness and greater
lateral ventricle and inferior lateral ventricle volume", all of
which are associated with cognitive decline as we age.

What exactly are the medications that may shrink your
brain. The scientists broke them out into 3 categories,
those that are definitely "anti-cholinergic" are in category 2
and 3 and include brompheniramine (Dimetapp),
diphenhydramine (Benadryl), olanzapine (Zyprexa) and
Meperidine (Demerol).  

Medications in Category 1 have a "possible" brain shrinking
effect and include common ones such as loratadine
(Claritin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Zanax).

Here is the complete list of the medications. ]











































































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Walnuts help to increase omega-3 in your
blood , which helps to increase brain volume.
Eating a super high protein diet can shrink your brain, studies
how.