How to Avoid Cognitive Decline
Do you ever walk into a room and suddenly cannot remember why you went there in the first place? Have you ever been talking and mid-sentence you draw a blank as to what you were going to say next? Do you ever misplace simple everyday items, such as your eyeglasses or keys? Are you ever left tongue-tied trying to think of the word you want to say, while you know the meaning you want to convey but the word just isn’t coming to you?
Sometimes moments like this can stop us in our tracks. It can be frustrating to have a thought slip from our mind as quickly as it entered. At times it may even cause us to question whether it is normal versus whether we should be concerned with the frequency of such incidents. Fears aside, some forgetfulness is normal and does not necessitate worry. Some gradual mental decline with aging is ordinary.
It is typical that as we age, most people will take a bit longer to learn new information or recall material. Additionally, our performance time may slow, and we might become more easily distracted. It is common to forget names or words from time to time. It is not unusual to misplace things occasionally. Normal declines due to aging do not affect overall functioning and ability to ultimately complete activities in our daily living. Typical aging does not affect recognition, intelligence, or long-term memory.
Cognitive impairment means someone has difficulty remembering, learning something new, concentrating, and making decisions affecting everyday life. For example, a person may more frequently forget having had a conversation. They might now forget an appointment or planned event, which they previously would have remembered. A person may begin to suffer confusion (including identity confusion), impaired judgment, and loss of short-term or long-term memory. One may also suffer form poor motor coordination. Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to severe, and the advancing cases may include Alzheimer's and forms of dementia.
How can we slow cognitive decline?
Much as there are habits we can do to promote better physical health in our bodies, we can also take steps to prolong our mental health. The sooner we start to focus on our brain health, the more we can prolong our cognitive capabilities, whether or not a person has been diagnosed as having a form of cognitive impairment. It may not be surprising to know that many of things that benefit us physically can also benefit us cognitively.
- Exercise- Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise, which elevates the heart rate in a healthy way. This could mean exercise for at least an hour three days a week, or it could be as simple as walking at least a half hour every day. The idea is to avoid obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other negative health risk factors. This will help keep your mind sharper.
- Diet- Eat a healthy diet. While there is not one set diet that is professed to work for everyone, lowering or avoiding the intake of processed foods and sugars, bad fats, and cholesterol is encouraged. A diet full of vegetables and fruits is advised. Fish, poultry, and lean meats are suggested over higher fat red meats. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are encouraged over processed grains. Healthy fats (such as fish like salmon, avocados, and some nuts) and the use of olive oil is preferred to higher fatty vegetable oils. Some people specifically prefer a Mediterranean-style diet, including the Mediterranean-DASH diet. Putting better foods into your brain allows your brain to give you better output.
- Sleep- Get the appropriate amount of sleep each night (suggested 7-9 hours). On the flip side, some studies now show that getting too much sleep regularly (defined as over 9 hours a night) can also have negative effects on the brain. Our brains need our bodies to rest so that they can perform at their peak.
- Mental Stimulation- Keep learning and try new things. You might even consider taking a class, learning something from an online video, or trying a new hobby. Encourage your brain to stay active through mental exercises, such as reading and writing. You might do word search, Sudoku, or crossword puzzles. You could assemble a jigsaw puzzle. Consider playing board or card games. Play music. Engage in group discussions, such as through MyHelloLine. Vary what you do so that you are not staring at an electronic screen all day.
- Social Contacts- Maintaining social connections and participating in social activities are advised. Staying connected helps limit feelings of loneliness and depression, and it can lower stress levels. Social activities also require one to engage in several mental processes, which encourage better cognition. Pursue those activities that are meaningful to you—from volunteering to joining a choir, from participating in a quilting circle to helping a friend assemble new furniture, or from going on lunch dates with friends to participating in a book club.
- Avoid Head Injuries- Take actions to avoid head injuries. Take steps to avoid falls. For example, if needed, install a handrail or non-slip flooring in the bathtub or shower. Move or avoid things that could be considered hazards for tripping or slipping. Wear your seat belt when riding in a vehicle. Wear appropriate head gear if participating in activities such as riding a bike or horseback riding.
- Alcohol- Moderate consumption is okay, if you already enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage. This should be limited to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women. Some studies show that red wine may be more effective than other types of alcohol. However, it should be noted that heavy drinkers (defined as men having more than four drinks per day or 14 drinks per week and women having more than three drinks per day or seven drinks per week) are at a higher risk than nondrinkers for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. If you are so inclined, go ahead and partake in happy hour today!
Feel free to reach out and see how LifeBio can assist you in staying mentally stimulated today. We have activities to engage people in telephone conversations and through wellness checks. We offer online journals and print journals to encourage writing and remembering life events. We have tools to encourage meaningful conversation, especially using our reminiscence therapy. How can we best serve you today?
LifeBio can be found online at https://www.lifebio.org/, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via telephone at 1-866-LIFEBIO (1-866-543-3246).