As we age, changes continue happening throughout the body, and the brain is no exception. Most people experience a little bit of forgetfulness as they age, especially in their 60s and 70s. Changes within the brain may result in potential impacts on cognitive function, even for healthy individuals.
There are many ways to support a healthy mind and keep it sharp – not only to improve everyday quality of life but to help reduce the risk of dementia and memory loss.
According to the National Institute of Health, brain health refers to how well a person’s brain functions across several areas including cognitive, motor, emotional, and tactile functions.
Brain health can be affected by changes in the brain, injuries such as stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI), mood disorders and diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple significant hypoglycemic events for those diagnosed with diabetes.
While some cognitive decline cannot be reversed, the human body can be very resilient. The brain consists of numerous neural connections which is useful to both send and retrieve messages to the rest of the body.
When a portion of these connections are damaged, they can create new pathways through a process called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity may rewire functions to new, healthy areas of the brain to compensate for the damage sustained.
There are also many lifestyle choices that can help boost brain health.
Staying in touch with friends and family, and maintaining these important relationships stimulates the brain and helps you stay active. Connecting with others through social activities and community events can also keep your brain active and engaged and reduce feelings of isolation. Find ways to spend quality time with those close to you, or schedule regular calls if they do not live close by.
Getting a good night’s sleep supports brain health at any age. Recent studies have shown that both insufficient sleep and sleeping longer than average can increase your likelihood of developing dementia.
It is recommended that people aged 65 or older get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, inability to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night, or are concerned about sleeping too long, reach out to your health care provider.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and may also promote brain health. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants – leafy greens, grapes and blueberries are excellent options.
Additionally, fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, and herring contain DHA omega-3 fatty acids that can help protect the brain and may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone’s body is different, so contact your health care provider before altering your diet drastically.
Studies have shown that older adults who learn a new skill have more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitive-related activities. To figure out what new skill you’d like to learn ask yourself: Is there something I’ve always wanted to know how to do? Learning a new skill doesn’t have to completely change your daily routine, it could be as simple as trying a new recipe once a week.
Over time, chronic stress can change the brain, affect your blood glucose levels, affect memory, and increase your risk for dementia. From regular exercise and meditation to journaling and practicing gratitude, there are a variety of ways to reduce and manage stress.
Regardless of what works best for you, stress management can have a significant impact on brain health and mental agility. Many of these activities can also promote better mental health at any age.
Being proactive about brain health will help you stay sharp and prevent age-related cognitive decline. Remember, age is just a number, and it shouldn’t define who you are.
What brain boosting activities resonate most with you? How do you stay active and engaged with peers and loved ones? What new skill have you always wanted to try? What are your current stress management tactics?
Tags Brain Health