As people get older, they may begin to notice that their memory isn't quite what it used to be or that they are feeling forgetful more frequently. But preserving your mental abilities as you get older doesn't have to be difficult and can even be fun!
Say you've noticed changes in your thinking or that you misplace your keys more often than before. Maybe you struggle to find the right word when having a conversation. Before you jump to conclusions and worry that you're developing a serious health problem, you should be aware that your brain changes with age. It changes in both size and structure and these differences can, and usually do, impact how well your brain is working over time.
But there are steps that can be taken to help preserve important functions, such as memory, even as your brain is changing. Based on research, here are 7 tips that can help you to remain mentally sharp as you age:
1. Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are thought to contribute to the development of certain types of dementia, or severe memory loss.
Good cardiovascular health is associated with improved cognitive function. It's important to talk with your doctor about your cholesterol and blood pressure levels and to discuss what steps you can take to improve and maintain your cardiovascular health.
2. Avoid Smoking or Excessive Drinking of Alcohol
Because smoking and drinking in excess has been linked to Dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association, it's best to avoid smoking and only drink in moderation.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as less than two drinks per day for men and less than one per day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed. A "drink" equals 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor.
A study published in July of 2022 found that alcohol consumption above 7 units per week is associated with higher brain iron, which in turn is associated with worse cognitive function. Seven units of alcohol is about the amount in four bottles of beer or three glasses of wine.
3. Exercise Regularly
Regular physical activity is thought to help maintain positive blood flow to the brain and reduce your risk of conditions, such as high blood pressure that are associated with developing dementia. Studies have also found that exercise has additional positive effects on the brain and that regular exercise in older adults could potentially delay about one-third of dementia cases worldwide.
Regardless of age, exercise is so important. When doing so, make sure that you pick activities that feel comfortable for you. Over time you can build up the time and intensity of your workouts.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Surprisingly, what you eat can have a huge impact on how your brain is working and your cognitive function. Food containing certain nutrients like Vitamin E, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked with improved mental clarity and function.
On the opposite side, consuming foods that are high in saturated fats can negatively impact your memory and other brain functions. Its best to have a diet that consists of leafy greens, berries and seafood. Eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on vegetables, healthy fats, and Omega-3 fatty acids from fish can be beneficial. It's best to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
5. Stimulate Your Brain
According to the Alzheimer's Association, doing activities that mentally stimulate your brain throughout the day may help to build cognitive reserve, or the ability to function well in spite of brain diseases or other changes.
You can also keep your mind active by learning new skills. Learning skills later in life may have the potential to reduce or delay cognitive changes associated with aging.
6. Socialize More
Making new friends and staying close with current ones is actually very good for your brain. A study published in 2021 in Japan found that people who constantly engaged in social engagement or increased their social engagement had a lower risk of dementia than those with consistently low social engagement.
7. Play Brain Games
Playing memory or brain games, or just games in general, can help to keep your brain healthy. Experts say that while these games won't offset the changes to your brain that come with aging, they can help to test and train your memory. Also, playing games with friends and family increases social interaction, which we have already discussed in tip #6.
Brain Training Games are computerized games that specifically designed to exercise your memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem-solving. They can be fun and helpful at the same time.
How to Know When it's Time to Seek Help for Unclear Thoughts or Forgetfulness
The above tips can help to keep your brain healthy; they won't reverse the effects of mental diseases. It's important to pay close attention and to recognize when it might be time to talk with a doctor. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss or other cognitive symptoms that interfere with your normal activities and relationships, it's best to talk with your doctor.
Here are some signs that what you are experiencing may be beyond normal memory loss that comes with aging:
- Asking questions repeatedly
- Continually mixing up common words when speaking
- Taking longer than usual to complete daily living activities
- Misplacing items in unusual places, such as putting your keys in the refrigerator
- Becoming lost while being in an area that you are very familiar with
- Unexplained Behavorial changes and mood swings
If you or a loved one are suffering from Alzheimer's or Dementia, please give us a call. Our Accessibility Consultants can talk with you about the products that LiveWell has to offer that can help to make your life easier while living with these diseases.