Cognitive Health and Older Adults

older couple sharing a moment outside in the sunHave you ever blanked on a friend’s name mid-conversation? Or maybe you walked into another room to get something, but for the life of you can’t remember what it was? There’s nothing to be ashamed of. These effects of aging are common and happen to everyone. The reason why is quite simple: as we get older, so do our brains. That being said, recent studies have shown certain activities can benefit and improve your cognitive abilities as you age, including memory loss and thinking skills.

Here are 5 ways to keep your brain active and feeling “young” again:

1. Eat healthy!

We’ve all heard the old adage “you are what you eat,” and with aging it’s no different. What you consume has a direct correlation to your cognitive behavior. That’s why it’s important to consume a diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet, that is high in brain-healthy nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, powerful antioxidants, and vitamins B, C, D, and E. These nutrients aid in brain health by supporting synaptic plasticity, reducing harmful inflammation, and fostering neuron development.

2. Get moving!

Aerobic exercise and weight training have many benefits as we age. In addition to relieving stress and lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, physical exercise has also been found to be excellent for brain health. The reason why is quite simple: physical exercise increases capillary development in the brain. This means that increased blood flow brings more nutrients and oxygen to your brain, aiding in the development of new brain cells known as “neurons.”
Increased neuron activity means you feel sharper, smarter, and has been linked to delay the development of dementia.

3. Challenge your mind!

We’ve covered how exercising your muscles can help improve your cognitive functions, but don’t forget your brain is a muscle, too! Just like your body, your brain needs daily exercise to keep fit. The key is to pick activities that require you to keep your mind engaged—activities like reading, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, or even playing board games. These activities help sharpen your mind by stimulating and maintaining individual brain cells and the communication among them. You can even try picking up a new hobby or skill, like drawing, painting, or knitting. Even something as simple as listening to music has been found to stimulate the brain and improve memory loss!

4. Socialize!

We all know that having a dynamic social network and surrounding yourself with a group of compassionate people who care about you regularly can do wonders for you mood, but you may not know socializing can have powerful effects on the brain as well. Through recent studies, neurologists have found that adults with larger social networks and daily social contact actually have a lower risk of developing dementia. On the reverse, adults who feel lonely, with smaller or no social networks and minimal social contact, have a higher risk of developing dementia. This means that socialization has a direct correlation to cognitive aging! Try joining a social club, exercising class, or maintaining regular visits and phone calls with close family and friends to maintain your social connections and stave off cognitive decline.

5. Rest!

When it comes to the brain, inactivity is just as important as activity. That means after challenging your mind with brain-engaging puzzles or social engagements, it’s necessary to wind down and give your brain a rest from the constant stimuli of daily life. Sleep, meditation, or even a simple walk through nature allows your mind the opportunity to reboot, recharge, and power on. To keep your brain properly rested, aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and plan for mindful downtime activities throughout your day.

Forgetfulness or memory loss can be a frustrating side effect to aging, but by incorporating these five basic health habits into your daily life, you can easily keep your brain active and feeling young again!