As we age, our brain’s volume gradually shrinks causing some of the nerve cells to shrink or lose connections with other nerve cells. Blood flow also slows somewhat as we age. These age-related changes are thought to be behind the differences in cognitive function that many people notice as they age.
In most instances, this is a normal part of the aging process. But taking certain actions early on can also help to slow down this process and delay the undesired effects it can have on our mental function and quality of life. Promising research indicates that taking the following steps can help keep your mind sharp as you age. Let’s learn what they are!
- Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure.
High cholesterol and blood pressure have both been closely linked with an increased chance of heart attack or stroke, which are thought to contribute to developing certain forms of dementia. Be sure to see your doctor regularly who can help you monitor your cardiovascular health and recommend actions you can take to further improve it.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Proper nutrition is critically important at every stage in life; and it remains equally important as you brain ages. Researchers have found strong evidence that vitamin E, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent dementia, along with avoiding saturated fat. Focus on incorporating these nutrients into your diet, or supplementing with vitamins.
- Limit nicotine and alcohol consumption.
Both drinking and smoking regularly and excessively have been linked to dementia as you age. The lifestyle choices you make now, and kicking out the bad habits as soon as possible, put you in the best potion to reap the rewards of better mental health as you age.
- Stimulate your brain daily.
Who doesn’t love a good puzzle or word search? Whatever you preference is for “brain teasers” make a conscious effort to incorporate such activities into each and every day. This can be as simple as spending 20 minutes each morning solving the paper’s Sudoku puzzle while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
- Schedule meaningful socialization.
Making new friends or spending time with the ones you have might be good for your brain. A 2018 study published in Scientific Reports found that participants with consistently high or increased social engagement had a lower risk of dementia than those with consistently low social engagement. Especially for those who live alone, be sure to reach out to family and friends to schedule regular visits that will help you get the socialization you need to thrive.
- Have a plan for getting regular exercise.
As you age, getting enough exercise can be a challenge. Maybe you have physical limitations. Or maybe it is not easy to get out to a community exercise class. There are still many other options to help you stay active, which in turn helps increase blood flow and brain function. Consider an exercise DVD you can do from home. Or find a neighbor who can be your walking partner. Just 20 minutes of elevated heart rate every day yields huge long-term health benefits.
- Surround yourself with memories.
Not only are memories beautiful, they are also beneficial. Looking back through old photo albums, watching home videos, and even walking by photos of family and friends you have framed on your walls daily will all help to reinforce these memories and stimulate brain function.
If you or someone you know is entering their senior years, it is never too early to be thinking about how you plan to maintain your mental health. Try to incorporate even just a few of these tips into your weekly routine and set yourself up for improved mental health now and into the future!