Memory Loss in Seniors

Cognitive Health in Seniors

4 Ways to Keep the Brain Healthy As You Age

Research has indicated that there are several ways that older adults (and those of all ages) can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline – many of which are beneficial for other aspects of the body. Encourage your aging loved ones to incorporate the following best practices into their lifestyle. Be sure that, prior to beginning any new exercise regimen or diet, your loved ones consult with a physician and dietician.

  • Stimulation: In the last few years, there have been numerous research studies in the area of neurological plasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to structurally modify in response to new experiences. This “re- wiring” of nerve cells is actually what is at the center of most cognitive and physical rehabilitation practices.However, it essentially serves the same function for those looking to keep their brains healthy, and it can be done simply by learning new skills or keeping the brain regularly “exercised” through puzzles or games. Many suggest that seniors enroll in a class or other form of organized learning – which will help not only in developing new skills but also with cultivating socialization.
  • Exercise Regularly: While it’s not exactly news that exercise is good for the body, it may come as a surprise to some that regular exercise also has quite an impact on mental health. Physical activity improves cardiovascular health, which in turn helps supply the brain with blood. It also helps in developing new/increasing existing neural connections (see neurological plasticity above), allowing the brain to be more adaptive. Research suggests that regular exercise can also significantly reduce mental stress. Some seniors may choose to join a class with close friends for exercise, but it can just as easily be done at home. The keyis to ensure that the heart rate is elevated through moderate activity, for at least 20-30 minutes every day.
  • Watch Your Diet: The food we consume has a direct effect on our mental well-being and health. In order to operate at its optimum level, the brain requires fuel in the form of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. If your current diet consists primarily of salt, sugar, fat, and refined/processed foods, consider switching things around. Studies show that diets consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, sources of B vitamins, and lean meats can significantly reduce anxiety levels and even the risk of depression.
  • Stay Social: Although it’s not entirely understood how socialization bolsters brain health, studies show that a correlation between having strong social connections and longer life expectancy does exist. Interaction, whether it be with friends, family members, or next-door neighbors, appears to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and improve overall mental well-being. This is especially evident in those who volunteer their time to help others. Try reaching out through organizations, community centers, or schools to see how you can help make a positive impact on others – and the health of your brain.

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