Before getting into these 5 ways to prevent cognitive decline as you age, take a look at the definition of “Cognition”.
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”
- What you do in your early adult years can have major repercussions on the health of your brain.
So, as we’ve learned, making good lifestyle choices early on can prevent your cognitive abilities from declining as you age.
And I understand, there are no shortcuts, but staying away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking can make a world of difference.
While sadly, there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a number of ways to help slow down, maybe even reverse, its symptoms by engaging in activities that protect the brain and urges brain cells to become more active and alert.
1. Stay Socially Active
We can’t deny how much fun it is doing activities with our friends, or even going to new places and meeting new people. We are social creatures.
When we connect with others, even though a simple smile or handshake, our brain releases the “happy hormone” known as oxytocin. This elevates your mood, reduces stress and boosts cognitive functions.
2. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
As we age, we become stuck in our routines.
Most adults don’t like trying new things in general, which could be one reason our brains start shrinking as we age.
As kids, we always enjoyed and doing things we’d never done before, but as we’ve grown older, trying new things has made us more uncomfortable and we fear rejection and embarrassment.
That, right there, is what reduces brain stimulation and increases cognitive decline.
3. Exercise, Eat, Sleep
Blah, blah, blah…I know, but getting regular exercise comes with a slew of physical, emotional and most importantly, mental – benefits.
It can improve mental processing speed and memory while slowing down, even reversing, cognitive impairment. And exercising doesn’t necessarily mean high-intensity, hours on end, rigorous movements.
It could be a simple 30-minute walk, going for a swim, gardening, or doing yoga. The point is to keep your muscles engaged and your blood pumping for no less than half an hour.
Maintain a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, whole wheat, and omega-3 fatty acids. Try to stay away from foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and trans fats.
Studies show that there are foods that improve brain health such as:
- Olive oil
- Spices such as turmeric, curry, and ginger
- Nuts and berries (since they’re rich in phytochemicals, which are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties).
They promote good health and can slow the decline in memory function by helping the metabolism process of glucose in the brain.
Nuts and berries also boost cognitive signals.
Drinking 2 and a half cups of blueberry juice or concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks consecutively has proven to prevent, even reverse, cognitive impairment and neuronal functioning.
Ahh sleep…difficult for many of us. However, we all should be getting, on average, 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night.
If you get less than 7 hours of sleep at night, it could increase your risk of cognitive decline in the long run.
What you do in your early adulthood years can also have a serious effect on your brain health as you age – it’s all connected.
A review of observational studies carried out in 2014 states that, “healthy sleep appears to play an important role in maintaining brain health with age, and may play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease prevention.”
4. Listen To Music.
Music engages the right side of the brain, allowing you to focus more on what you’re doing rather than letting your mind wander.
It also reduces stress and anxiety. And, interestingly, setting words to music improves memory and concentration skills. It also boosts brain processes and can even reverse Alzheimer symptoms.
5. Play games
Your brain needs exercise too to stay young and fit. Mental activities slow down cognitive decline and increase focus and concentration. And now there’s an endless array of mental puzzles to choose from.
You can buy them at bookstores, play on your phone or tablet. Even adding up your grocery bill in your head is a great way to keep your brain pumped and alert.
Reading, learning a new language or playing a musical instrument are great examples of activities that keep your brain operating at its best.
Another great way to create new brain pathways is to try something new, like taking a different route to work or write with your non-dominant hand. Your brain wants to be challenged, so why not give it what it wants.
While it’s a normal part of life to experience a slight decline in our mental abilities as we age, we have the ability to slow it down.
It’s never too early or too late to start, no matter where you are in life so you can keep your brain healthy, age gracefully, and enjoy every minute of it.