It’s no surprise that as we age our brains change. We all lose our keys or forget appointments, but as we age these moments of forgetfulness can become a health concern. Our brains help us make sense of the world, connect to others, remember, learn, and create. As we age, it’s important to give our brains what they need to remain healthy and sharp.
According to the National Institute on Aging, our brains control many aspects of thinking, remembering, planning, organizing and making decisions. As we get older parts of our brain can actually shrink, causing delays in our ability to learn and complete complex mental activities. However, our brains can change in positive ways as well. Our lifetime of experiences help us to learn new things and give us the opportunity to create new memories. As we age, it’s important to understand how to care for our brains and what puts them at risk.
How to Keep Your Mind Sharp: Risks to Cognitive Health
While some aspects of brain health are related to genetics, there are other environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence our cognitive function as well. The National Institute on Aging has provided a list of the most common factors that can contribute to a decline in our cognitive health:
Those at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure increase their chances of experiencing a stroke, which can put you at risk for developing dementia. Memory diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia can lead to memory loss and thinking complications. While these conditions can be genetic, eating a heart-healthy diet can help protect your brain.
It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience a fall-related injury. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. These accidents can put you at risk for developing a brain-related injury or head trauma. If you are at risk of falling, make sure to fall-proof your home, especially in tight spaces such as the hallway.
Some medications, especially when you take several different prescriptions, can cause side-effects such as confusion, memory loss, and delusion. Medications can also cause you to develop a Urinary Tract Infection, which, if gone untreated, can cause confusion and disorientation. Always make sure your doctor knows which medications you are consuming, especially if you see multiple healthcare providers.
Our lifestyle choices can have a dramatic effect on our cognitive health, especially as we age. Lack of exercise can increase the risk of heart-related diseases, depression, and stroke, all of which can negatively affect the brain. Brain health is closely related to our heart health. This means that smoking, consuming a diet high in fat and sodium, and consuming too much alcohol put stress on your heart, which can ultimately affect your cognitive health.
How to Keep Your Mind Sharp: Tips for Mental Fitness
Keeping our brains healthy is just as important as keeping our bodies active. Choosing to work on your mental fitness each day will improve your quality of life, especially as you age. These tips, published by the Harvard Medical School and Healthline, will help protect and improve your memory at any age.
- Learn with your senses. Studies show that when we intentionally use all of our senses while learning something new, we’re more likely to remember it in the long-term. This requires you to slow down, and take note of the environment around you. Ask yourself, what do I hear? What do I smell, touch, and taste? When we pair a memory with one of our senses, our chances of recalling other details are much higher.
- Stop multitasking. We might all think we’re great at multitasking. But, the truth is multitasking is impossible! Focus on one task at a time and use full concentration.
- Trick your brain into working. There are a variety of games available that practice using different parts of the brain such as crossword puzzles, board games, and Sudoku. These games build your brain muscles, allowing you to learn new tasks, and increase your attention span and reaction time.
- Read! Whether you choose to read a magazine article or a romance novel, reading constantly demands your brain’s attention. Reading forces us to use our imaginations, process words and sentences, and spark different parts of the brain.
- Improve your sleep habits. Getting a full night’s rest can actually improve your brain function. Sleep is essential for consolidating memories and improving cognitive functions.
- Stay positive. Your cognitive health starts with positive self-talk. Giving yourself daily affirmations can actually strengthen your neural pathways. Acknowledge your good qualities and be gentle with yourself!
We spend a lot of time talking about ways to keep our bodies healthy, but our brains deserve some attention too. At Maplewood Senior Communities, we encourage our residents to keep their minds sharp by trying new things. Whether it’s through technology or music, our residents always have the opportunity to learn. To learn more about our offerings at Maplewood communities, please reach out to us.