How to Strengthen Your Aging Brain
It’s no secret that many things about our bodies and mind change as we grow older; however, it’s important to understand that the aging process doesn’t always result in a pronounced decline or total loss of cognitive ability. While every brain does certainly change with age, and mental decline is an issue that you should be aware of—cognitive impairment is not an inevitable condition. In fact, there are many different ways that you can work to strengthen your brain and enjoy peace of mind with a few simple dementia prevention steps. Keep reading to learn more about your aging brain and what you can do to help boost your brain power!
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Prevention: How to Exercise Your Aging Brain
There are many myths surrounding the aging process and cognitive decline. While it’s a good thing that people are concerned about their cognitive wellness over time, modern studies surrounding the brain and how it functions as we get older indicate that some types of dementia have actually been on the decline since the 1970s. A recent and extensive longitudinal study of people over 60 showed that incidences of dementia dropped by 20% per decade since 1977.
Current information on the aging brain also contradicts the belief that the adult brain loses tons of neurons each day. On the contrary, researchers now understand that many areas of the brain — including the cortex — actually maintain the majority of their neutrons as we grow older. However, all of this positive news doesn’t mean that you should continue on into your retirement without taking extra care to boost your brain function daily. The old idea that you need to use it or lose it still rings very true for brain health.
11 Steps to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Step 1: Make Sure to Get Plenty of Mental Stimulation
Many typical “brainy” activities can work to help stimulate new connections in the brain between nerve cells. In fact, they may even give the brain the boost that it needs to generate new cells and develop neurological plasticity. This essentially means that any mentally stimulating activity can help to build up your brain power. Whether you like to read, are interested in taking a course at your local community college, or simply enjoy competing with friends and family at word puzzles — any activity that requires a bit of mental gymnastics is good for your brain health. You can also experiment with activities that rely on manual dexterity as well, including painting, drawing and other arts and crafts.
Step 2: Invest Time in Physical Exercise
A wide variety of research shows that regularly exercising your muscles also helps to improve brain function. When you stick to a regular exercise routine, you can increase the number of blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the area of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise is also great for spurring the development of new nerve cells and can increase the connections between brain cells, called synapses.
With continued exercise, you can help to create a brain that is more efficient and adaptive. Additionally, exercise is a wonderful tool for lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and reducing mental stress. It is the ideal activity for helping both your brain and your heart!
Step 3: Eat a Healthy Diet
Good nutrition and a healthy mind also go hand in hand. Not only does eating well make you feel better physically, but it is also good for the mind. For example, if you eat a diet that is more Mediterranean and features a balance between fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables and plant proteins — research suggests that you will be less likely to develop cognitive impairment and certain types of dementia over time. If cooking isn’t one of your favorite hobbies, many modern supportive living environments offer an abundance of amenities, such as chef-prepared meals that are designed to help keep your body and mind satisfied.
Step 4: Improve Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common health issue that many Americans struggle to keep under control; but did you know that high blood pressure in midlife can increase your risk of experiencing cognitive decline as you age? This is a risk that should be taken very seriously. To help keep your blood pressure levels within a healthy range, it’s important to exercise regularly, limit alcohol consumption to two drinks per day and to eat a balanced diet.
Reducing stress is also essential for healthy blood pressure levels. To help keep your mind clam and stress-free, you can try a variety of different activities including yoga, meditation and focused breathing exercises.
Step 5: Lower Your Cholesterol
Everyone has two main types of cholesterol that they need to pay attention to. You may have heard your doctor refer to LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol during your most recent physical exam, but which one is “good,” and which one is “bad?” HDL cholesterol works to carry cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body and back again. This is what doctors consider to be the “good” type of cholesterol.
Alternatively, LDL cholesterol is what most people refer to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can build up in the arteries and lead to heart disease. Additionally, high levels of LDL cholesterol have been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. Avoiding tobacco, weight control, proper diet and exercise can help to improve your cholesterol levels.
Step 6: Beware of Too Much Sugar
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ve probably been given your fair share of warnings from your doctor to pay close attention to your blood sugar levels. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic health conditions in America today. Studies show a link between diabetes and an increased risk of developing dementia. The best way to prevent diabetes is to eat a nutritional diet — cutting out processed sugars wherever possible, staying lean and committing to a regular workout regimen. However, if you’re practicing these healthy lifestyle choices and still have issues improving your blood sugar levels, you may need to discuss medication options with your doctor.
Step 7: Avoid Tobacco
While not everyone who smokes tobacco will develop dementia, there is strong evidence to support the idea that smoking can increase your risk of experiencing cognitive issues. Some of the reasoning behind this theory is the fact that both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are linked to issues in the vascular system (the heart and blood vessels). Using tobacco increases the risk of experiencing vascular problems, including brain bleeds and stroke — both of which are also risk factors of dementia.
Step 8: Take Care of Your Emotional Health
Anxiety, depression and insomnia can all take a huge toll on your overall well-being. They can contribute to a wide variety of physical ailments but are also linked to poor cognitive function as well. In fact, people who are anxious or stressed out, typically score lower on simple cognitive tests. And while poor test scores don’t necessarily mean you will develop dementia as you age, restful sleep and good mental health are important goals that we all should strive for.
Step 9: Drink Less
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an alcoholic beverage every now and then; however, if you are consuming more than two drinks per day, there may be cause for concern. Excessive drinking is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of dementia. So, if you choose to drink, make sure that you are doing so in moderation. If you find that you are having difficulty limiting your alcohol consumption to two drinks per day, you should speak to your doctor.
Step 10: Take Special Care of Your Head
Slips and falls are a common problem for people of all ages, but as you enter into your later years, it’s essential that you take extra care of your balance and strength. As we age, there are a variety of health issues that can make us vulnerable to falling. Even minor head injuries can be a cause for great concern but moderate to more severe head injuries can have lasting health consequences. Even if a head injury isn’t linked to a concussion, it can increase your risk of experiencing cognitive impairment.
Step 11: Build Your Social Network
Increased isolation is something that many people deal with as they get older. With the popularity of the internet and social media, more and more people are interacting in the digital space than in real life. While this can be a useful option for staying in touch with friends and family who live far away, nothing can replace regular, real-life socializing.
It’s extremely beneficial to your health to work on establishing friendships with people in your local community. Whether you still visit with lifelong friends, or you are working on meeting new people around town, strong social connections are associated with a lower risk of dementia. Struggling to find a friend group that meets regularly? Many supportive living communities feature a variety of activities and social meetups that are dedicated to fostering new connections between you and your peers!
Stay Active to Help Boost Brain Function as You Age
While it’s important to pay close attention to your brain function as you age, worrying that you will develop dementia is not healthy. With so much modern research indicating that aging doesn’t always lead to the loss of cognitive ability, it’s a good idea to do what you can to keep your brain happy and active as you get older.
Living a healthy, active and social lifestyle is the key to enjoying a higher level of overall well-being as we get older. With these simple health and lifestyle tips, you can help to improve your brain function as you get older and possibly avoid the development of common cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – although nothing is guaranteed.
Contact Tudor Heights Today for More Information
At Tudor Heights, we’re dedicated to helping residents live their lives to the fullest. We work hard to help foster a healthy, happy and well-rounded lifestyle for all community members. Are you interested in more great health and lifestyle tips? To learn more about healthy living for seniors or to get more information about life here at Tudor heights, please contact our team online. Our friendly admissions specialists will be happy to schedule a visit with you and are always available to engage in one-on-one conversations with prospective residents!