Keeping a Sharp Mind as You Age
As we age, our brain undergoes several changes, and these changes can affect our ability to think critically and recall important information. Fortunately, there are ways to help minimize the impact of these changes. Here, the elder care professionals at Avila Home Care provide tips for maintaining and improving cognitive function as you age.
Maintain a Healthy Diet and Engage in Regular Exercise
Eating well and exercising regularly can greatly lower your risk of developing dementia, and can keep your brain working optimally. A diet high in vegetables, berries, fatty fish, extra virgin olive oil and even coffee provides the brain the nutrients it needs to function well. Conversely, a diet high in processed foods and sugar can starve the brain of critical nutrients, potentially leading to a decline in memory and cognitive function.
Exercise is another vital component of maintaining and increasing cognitive function. Regular physical activity is thought to maintain blood flow to the brain, and may reduce the risk of high blood pressure—an issue associated with an increased risk of dementia. Furthermore, a study published in 2015 showed a link between consistent, vigorous exercise and a decrease in dementia risk. Those who are unable to engage in vigorous exercise are still encouraged to engage in lower-impact forms of exercise, such as swimming, walking, calisthenics or light yoga, as increases in activity of any kind are still extremely beneficial for the brain and body.
Find Ways to Use Your Brain in New Ways
Retirement often provides older individuals with increased free time, and this can be a wonderful opportunity to take part in pursuits that help to maintain and improve cognitive function. These pursuits can take many forms, such as learning a new hobby, participating in a book club, taking a class at a local university or community college, practicing a new skill or volunteering for a position in an unfamiliar field. Higher levels of education are associated with better mental functioning at advanced ages, so continuing to learn all throughout your life is a valuable way of ensuring your mind stays sharp.
Prioritize Your Brain Use
Like a pitcher can be filled with water, your brain can be filled with information—and, as your brain fills with information, it eventually becomes too full to retain new information and skill sets. Save your brainpower by taking advantage of calendars, alarms, schedule and address books and other tools that allow you to keep routine information close at hand. Keep commonly needed items, such as keys, umbrellas, handbags and coats in the same place in your home. This “frees up” brain space for new, more complex information.
Space Out Learning Opportunities
Trying to fit extensive amounts of learning into a short period of time is not very effective, and often leads to frustration. Instead, opt for shorter periods of learning time, separated by periods of relaxation—this form of repetition is particularly useful for improving memory and learning complicated skill sets.
Socialize with Friends and Loved Ones
The simple act of talking with others and performing group activities are fun and easy ways to improve your cognitive health, as several studies have shown. Be sure to devote several hours a week to engaging in social activities—some great ideas include going on a walk with a friend, calling up a loved one or having a potluck dinner.
Caretakers can also play a vital part in socialization and cognitive health, especially for those with mobility concerns, or those who live in rural or isolated areas. The elder care professionals at Avila Home Care want to be more than just a caretaker for their clients—they want to be a friend and companion. For more information about Avila Home Care and our dedicated caretakers, contact us today!
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