Your parents never really let you know that after the age of 40 you are going to have mysterious aches and pains. When you get up from a seat you will suddenly start to use sound effects. Uffff and ahhhhh match your upward movement. You start to get a bit dopey, forgetting words and walking into rooms and forgetting why you have arrived. It is almost as if at one minute to midnight on your 39th birthday you are super smart and healthy – then midnight hits and you have turned into your grandad.
But 40 isn't old anymore. Life expectancy is well into the 80s and so to succumb to the idea of being old at forty means you are going to be old for a heck of a long time! So, pull yourself together – get yourself to the gym, eat well and read this article to work out how you can work on your fluid intelligence. We can sort this out and return some of your youth, so your life can really start at the age of 40!
What is fluid intelligence?
Before we go any further we need to talk about fluid intelligence and why it is so important. The point is that most people think that our intelligence is fixed – set at birth and cannot be changed. There is nothing further from the truth! There are actually two forms of intelligence – according to a psychologist called Cattell – the first is crystallized intelligence which is defined as the ability to apply learning from knowledge or experience. This peaks later in life, around the age of 60 or 70. Then, there is fluid intelligence. This is the ability to learn new things, solve problems and identify patterns, which is meant to peak when we are teenagers but then decline progressively around the age of 30 or 40.
More simply, our fluid intelligence is that ability to think quickly and recall information. People often resign themselves to losing this intelligence as they grow older. However, a few years ago there was a mad trend for brain gym and the rise of opinion that said people who do crosswords or play chess could retain the mental sharpness much later than those who don't. In short, we are much more in control of the peaks and dips of our brains than we would imagine.
Scientists are keen to educate us about fluid intelligence because often people are far too resigned to the decline of age. The confusion, the memory loss and the general fuzziness of the brain could in fact be the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease. Therefore, people taking this decline seriously and thinking what they can do to counter the impact, could prevent many cases of more serious neurological conditions.
What can I do about my fluid intelligence?
So, now you know you are in control of your fluid intelligence, you can start to learn what to do about it. Here are some tips provided by psychologists – focused making your brain fit!
Suggestion One: Carry on learning
Dr Lachman, from Brandeis University, claims that education seems to be the "elixir" for the mind through our life. Having a college degree slows the decline of the mind but getting a degree later in life means an even greater delay. This means that one of the greatest things you can do for your mind is to take up a new hobby, skill or sign up to a course to learn something new. This might be socially daunting, it might take you out of your comfort zone; however, it is a sure fire way of keeping your brain young.
Suggestion Two: Do puzzles, crosswords, play chess...
Even if you have always done puzzles or played chess, continuing this practice is a great way of keeping your fluid intelligence sharp. As fluid intelligence doesn't rely on accumulated knowledge and experience, like crystalized intelligence, it is not relevant how much you have done this in the past. The only way to guarantee that puzzles and strategy games continue to improve your mind is to continue doing them.
According to Dr Lachman from the Midus research team, regular mental workouts can alter the neural circuitry in the brain. The hippocampus, which is the centre for memory retrieval and learning becomes much more responsive. Lachman describes this area as "mission control" and he points out that improving its performance significantly helps decision-making.
Suggestion Three: Find a way to reduce stress
Stress pretty much destroys the brain it seems. The Midas team found that people who had friends and family to call on when the world got too much tended to have a much better fluid intelligence. Therefore, they concluded that stress was a determinant as to whether intelligence is retained. This makes sense, when you consider how distracted stress can make you. It is likely being stressed will reduce your capacity to concentrate while learning or any mental test.
Suggestion Four: Try new creative things
Ok, Ok – this is not a suggestion that you take up knitting – unless you particularly like to knit – there is a chance that this could make you feel quite old. However, two things work here: doing something novel and doing some creative. Both of these challenges will help your brain both retain and improve your fluid intelligence.
Suggestion Five: Supplementing with Omega-3 or Vitamin B/ D
Omega-3 is a well known lubricant of the brain. It is found in oily fish in particular and is known to help memory and protect against depression. Depression is a huge risk factor in the decline of fluid intelligence – so anything that works her will work to protect your memory and problem solving skills. If this is the case, taking Tongkat Ali could also help – as the boost in testosterone will boost dopamine levels and in turn eat up cortisol. Vitamin B and D are particularly important for the brain – so it is important to keep these topped up!