Sudden confusion is related to the reduced capacity of the aging brain (size of the brain)and the many environmental abuses experienced. Reduced brain capacity happens over many years due to a variety of factors.

The size of the brain at birth is currently determined to be 23 billion cells. The brain grows not due to creating more cells but rather to creating connections between the cells.  Through learning the baby’s brain creates connections between cells that triple the size of the brain by the individual’s early 20’s. While those connections are important the connections noted to be the most important in increasing the size of the brain are those connections which in fact nourish the brain.

Babies and growing children who live an enriching environment will have significantly larger brain mass than those deprived of this environment. Then the goal becomes maintaining that brain capacity and constantly adding to the brain by creating new connections.

Researchers agree on these basic areas that will reduce brain size as you age:

  • medications
  • disease, especially chronic disease like heart disease
  • extended grief over personal loss
  • alcohol
  • not having a stimulating partner in life
  • bad living situations
  • inflexible personality style
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • high blood pressure – especially in middle age
  • lack of stimulation
  • low education level – lack of desire to learn – lack of curiosity
  • malnutrition
  • depression

When it comes to the brain it is certainly true that the more you have the more you can afford to lose. Knowing these areas that only do not support or maintain the brain but actually harm the brain, you can address these areas and reverse the brain shrinkage.Sudden confusion connected to reduced brain capacity then, though sudden is not really unexpected.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing