SuperAgers — who are they, are you one, and can you become one?

Dec 1, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2022, 1:14 pm
Super agers have been identified by researchers as men and women over age 80 that have the cognitiv...
FILE - In a May 19, 2015 file photo, R. Scott Turner, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Memory Disorder Center at Georgetown University Hospital, points to PET scan results that are part of a study on Allheimer's disease at Georgetown University Hospital, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

SALT LAKE CITY — What makes a person a “SuperAger“?  They are men and women older than 80 with the mental faculties of people decades younger.

The term SuperAger was coined by Northwestern SuperAging Research Program, which has been studying the elderly with superior memories for 14 years.

 If an octogenarian‘s memory is as good or better than cognitively normal people in their 50s and 60s, then they are accepted into the study on SuperAgers, as reported by CNN.

“SuperAgers are required to have outstanding episodic memory — the ability to recall everyday events and past personal experiences — but then SuperAgers just need to have at least average performance on the other cognitive tests,” said cognitive neuroscientist Emily Rogalski, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Let’s talk about SuperAgers

Jeremy Cunningham, who is the public policy director with the Utah Alzheimer’s Association, discusses what we can do to increase our cognitive ability. He joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic with Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic.

“What are the things the Alzheimer’s Association recommends we do to maybe make ourselves a SuperAger?” Debbie asked.

“Well, one of the greatest things that we can do is staying active, staying social. Watching what we’re eating. I think to say — individuals saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to have carbs. I’m going to do strictly protein and things.’ I think you really have to look at more of a Mediterranean-style diet. I think it’s ridiculous to cut carbs out completely . . . I know that there are certain disease factors that can play into Alzheimer’s such as diabetes, weight gain and–”

“There’s a predisposition as well,” Dave said. “There are genes like this Chris Hemsworth thing.”

USA TODAY reports:

Actor Chris Hemsworth, Marvel’s Thor, generated a lot of interest in Alzheimer’s disease earlier this month when he revealed genetic testing showed he had two copies of the APOE-e4 gene, one of the known risk factors for developing the disease.

Hemsworth subsequently announced he would be stepping away from acting to spend more time with his family and reassess his priorities.

“And that’s something really interesting in itself. Just because someone carries the gene from both parents, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to get that,” Cunningham said.

Cut Alzheimer’s risk

He suggested reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other diseases by ensuring you get enough sleep every night.

Cunningham also said people need to be taking cognitive tests earlier because the Alzheimer’s drugs now in trial phases are most effective when diseases are detected early.

“I do not know if I’ve ever taken a cognitive test,” Debbie said.

“It literally can take five minutes,” Cunningham said.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to do it, though,” Dave said.

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SuperAgers — who are they, are you one, and can you become one?