Would you say you’ve got a good program going to preserve brain health? Taking vitamins, supplements, nootropics, engaging the mind, reducing inflammation through the diet? Even if you’re doing all this, or more, there’s something out of the box that you should take note of: a solid support system.
Researchers have found that having a solid support system with someone you can count on to listen to you talk about any problems you’re having improves the resilience of the brain and can reduce brain age by 4 years.
This isn’t just self-reported feelings of being strong or able to tackle challenges head-on; the difference was measurable even down to the brain’s cerebral volume. Participants aged 40-50 years in the study had MRI scans and took cognitive function tests. People who scored lower on their cognitive function tests had lower cerebral volume which is a measure of cognitive resilience (or how your brain can function during the normal aging process).
The researchers identified that having a social support system—especially the availability of having someone to listen— could be seen in the cerebral brain volume. They found that every incremental decrease in unit of brain volume that happened in people who didn’t have a good listener in their lives had brains that were aged 4 years older!
The most beneficial aspect of the support system was a person you could count on to call who would truly listen to you when needed. There are many different ways that support systems can help, but the study focused on this particular aspect because it improved the cognitive resilience the most. The psychosocial effects of not feeling isolated have many implications for total body health and also measurably changes the brain. Reach out and build yourself a solid support system you can count on; because we will all have that time of need.
Likewise, even if you feel like listening to someone isn’t helping them, or you can’t provide a way to help, (or maybe they just want to vent rather than get advice): your support does make a difference.
Joel Salinas et al. Association of Social Support With Brain Volume and Cognition. JAMA Netw Open, 2021 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.21122