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How aging affects the nervous system

The nervous system controls functional activity and enables the body to respond to internal and external changes. It includes the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves).

As you age, many changes occur in the nervous system. These include a decrease in the number of nerve cells and decreased propagation speeds of messages between cells. In addition, the buildup of waste products that can cause abnormal changes.

A myelin sheath typically surrounds nerve cells to allow electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently. The degeneration of myelin with age causes nerve impulses to slow or stop and therefore reduces reflexes or sensations.

Age-related changes in brain structure don’t always reduce brain function. However, the culmination of changes in nerve cells, inherited changes, and the accumulation of toxic substances can cause a decrease in brain function.

The number of nerve cells decreases with age but the brain has characteristics to help offset this loss. The brain can produce new cells and form new connections between existing cells.

A decrease in blood flow accompanies aging, leading to a depletion of nutrients and malfunctioning of cells.

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This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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