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4 factors that can shrink the brain

Staying mentally sharp is a priority for everyone. Recent research has been breaking ground in finding out what kind of lifestyle can be beneficial or detrimental to mental acuity over the years. 

A new study from the University of California Davis has summarized these results by pointing to four primary factors of brain shrinkage, an effect that is known to cause a loss of cognitive function, according to Time magazine.

The first is having high blood pressure. This condition contributes to the accelerated development of "white matter change," during which blood vessels in the brain are damaged.

Diabetes had an impact on the brain as well. The study revealed that not managing your glucose levels can lead to a shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.

White matter change and a more rapid rate of brain shrinkage was much more apparent in smokers than in non-smokers. This led to a loss of executive brain function, which is responsible for decision-making, organization and planning.

The fourth factor researchers highlighted was being overweight. Heavier study participants displayed the fastest decrease in brain volume and a rapid decrease in executive function.

"We can't cure disease or cure aging, but the idea of a healthy body, healthy mind is very real. People should stop smoking, control their blood pressure, avoid diabetes and lose weight," Dr. Charles DeCarli, the director of the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a statement.

Leading an active lifestyle seems to meet all of these goals, which may be good news for baby boomers. Many members of the generation are looking to change the notion of what it means to be retired in the first place. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in Del Webb retirement communities, where more than 70 percent of homeowners regularly exercise. 

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