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SALT LAKE CITY -- Getting older is a part of life. As each birthday passes, you may find yourself wishing for the keen mind you had in your youth. So many of us wonder if there is something you can do to strengthen your brain power well into middle age and beyond.
We've all had those moments: You can't find your car keys; the name of that actor in that movie you just saw; what movie was that again? You picked up every item at the store but the one you needed.
We usually credit these moments to simple human error. But there are periods in our lives when our brains are sharper. There are also times when our bright lights are a little dimmer.
"Intelligence does change over the course of a lifetime," said Michael Gardner, a professor at the University of Utah.
Most of us expect our mental sharpness to fade as we age. But is that always the case?
Take, for example, the young, physically fit women at Centered City Yoga. They should be at the top of their mental game. But they say something - or a little someone - is sapping their brain power.
"I was twenty minutes late picking my kids up from school yesterday. I just forget the stupidest things," said Kelli Andrews who is pregnant with her third child.
If I can't remember something, I just say, 'Oh, I have an excuse, I'm pregnant,'" said Alanna Francom, who is 27 weeks pregnant.
The common phenomenon referred to as "pregnancy brain." Symptoms that suddenly appear while a mother is expecting, then disappear after delivery.
Like those cravings and mood swings, mothers-to-be can blame it on hormones.
"Your hormones change during pregnancy," Gardner said, "and probably those hormones are having an impact on your ability to concentrate and focus attention."
- Frequent exercise
- Socially active
- Remaining calm in the face of stress
- Feeling more in control of their lives
But what about those little lives they're creating? Is intelligence determined at birth? Probably not.
"Tests that are done, say with infants, are not reliable predictors of the intelligence a person will have in adulthood," Gardner said.
If that's the case, what do we have control over? Are there things we can do to slow or stop our intellectual decline as we age - or perhaps even reverse it?
At Two Creeks Coffee House in Salt Lake City, Monday's blend is a particularly rich roast - properly aged.
At 51 years of age, Scott Senjo says he is in the prime of his life. A college professor and criminologist, he admits a bit of his mental edge has waned, but says that wisdom more than makes up for it.
"I'm not as sharp as I used to be, but the countervailing side to that is that I conceptualize better," Senjo said.
Senjo says he stimulates his mind, body and soul by challenging himself with new skills - even things like writing poetry. Researchers say that is likely the reason his brain power continues to grow as he ages.
We all come into this world with a certain level of intelligence, but Gardner said it's categorized as "fluid intelligence." It includes our IQ and peaks around in our 20's. The other half of our intelligence is learned.
"Crystalized intelligence, which is the results of acculturation or schooling, increases basically through your entire lifetime," Gardner said.
Crystallized intelligence is based on life experience. Education, culture, and developing new interests all play a role. Researchers believe crystallized intelligence is the key to mental sharpness as we age. Stimulate your brain, increase your brain power.
Researchers found four common characteristics in senior citizens who performed as well as younger adults on intelligence tests: They exercised frequently, they were socially active, they remained calm in the face of stress, and they felt more in control of their lives.
So while at times it may seem appealing to go back to your youth, you may want to listen to the wisdom that comes with age. It's aging in the right way that makes the difference.
Here's the answer to the question we asked after the break: They're both a ton, so they're the same weight. And we want to toss you one more brain test: Rearrange the letters in the words "new door" to make one word. Chime in with those answers on Facebook and we'll reveal the correct answer at the end of the show.