Brain Health for Seniors

Almost everyone knows that it’s important to take care of the body, but what about the brain? In order to encourage optimal brain health, there are several things that seniors should be doing to deter neurological and mental health disorders from developing. 

Here are some easy ways to keep your mind in optimal health and prevent brain atrophy during the later years.

Keep an Active Mind

One of the best ways for seniors to promote optimal brain health is to keep their minds active. According to research, people who regularly engage in meaningful activities experience a significant improvement in memory as compared to those who do not participate in cognitive activities. Many scientists believe that this memory improvement is because the activities create a “cognitive reserve,” which ultimately protects the brain from future damage.

There are many different cognitive activities that can keep seniors’ minds active. Such cognitive activities may include reading magazines and books, playing board games or bingo, teaching a class, volunteering with kids or animals, and learning a new hobby or skill.

In addition to engaging in cognitive activities, seniors may want to consider participating in formal cognitive training. The formal cognitive training may consist of multiple sessions involving memory, processing speed, and reasoning training. This training has been shown to improve seniors’ mental skills up to ten years after the sessions were finished.

Lastly, it’s a good idea for seniors to practice using their memory. To greatly enhance short-term and long-term memory, they should try to memorize their grocery list, quote the lyrics to their favorite songs, perform math equations in their head, and sketch out a place that they have traveled to lately. Over time, these simple memory exercises will help seniors recall information faster. 

Engage in Physical Activity

If seniors would like to greatly enhance their brain health, they should not only exercise their mind, they should also work out their physical body. Along with the obvious benefit of losing weight, engaging in regular physical activity will support higher energy levels, prevent diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, improve strength, and lower the risk of depression.

Similar to participating in stimulating activities, frequent exercise can also improve cognitive health by drastically increasing the size of the brain related to important processes such as learning and memory. Studies show that aerobic exercise will have a greater impact on cognitive health than non-aerobic exercise. So, when seniors are trying to improve their cognitive health, they should consider brisk walking rather than stretching.

Whether seniors are walking or practicing yoga, most experts recommend that they obtain a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise every week or thirty minutes every day. One stimulating activity that most seniors will enjoy is a program that is designed to teach them how to prevent falls. 

For other great programs that encourage physical activity, seniors should talk with their primary physician.

Learn Something New Every Day

Many seniors will notice their cognitive function start to improve when they make a habit of learning something new every day. 

For example, learning a foreign language like Spanish or French can strengthen their brain muscles as they experiment with different words and sounds. 

On the other hand, a new artistic or athletic activity, whether it’s drawing, swimming, or dancing, will work the parts of the brain that aren’t used on a regular basis. 

There is no doubt that learning a new hobby or skills set is an excellent way to keep the brain healthy.

Maintain A Balanced Diet

Not only can maintaining a balanced diet reduce the risk of certain diseases, but the practice can also support a healthy brain.

There are some studies that suggest a Mediterranean diet can decrease the chances of cognitive impairment. A healthy diet may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to some researchers. 

In most cases, a well-balanced diet consists of chicken, fish, fruits, veggies, non-fat dairy items, and whole grains. While those food choices are strongly encouraged, seniors should make sure that they limit alcohol, fats, salt, and sugar. Of course, seniors should also remember to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

Stay Connected

Staying connected in the community can also help seniors maintain a healthy brain. When seniors participate in community programs and social events, they are less likely to feel lonely and more likely to experience optimal wellbeing.

Much research has shown that engaging in the community may delay cognitive decline, prevent dementia, and slow Alzheimer’s disease.

Some possible ways to stay connected are hanging out with family and friends, joining a community organization, visiting a senior center, and going to a religious ceremony.

Lower Stress Levels

As seniors gradually age, chronic stress can negatively affect their overall wellbeing, especially the function of their brain. Although it’s not easy to let go of stressful thoughts and situations, seniors must take time to relax if they want to protect their brain health. 

The best relaxation activities can vary from person to person, but most seniors enjoy receiving a spa treatment, spending time with family and friends, walking their dog, and meditating. Although these relaxation activities sound pretty simple, they really can prevent chronic stress and reduce the onset of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Seek Help When Necessary

When seniors are on a journey to protecting their brain health, they should make sure that they seek professional help when necessary. For example, if a senior is forgetting to complete tasks or experiencing difficulty recalling simple information, he/she may need additional brain support.

There are several resources available to those with cognitive impairment or a mental condition, some of which include an assisted living facility, support groups, and personalized counseling. They should also make sure that they talk with an experienced physician about their concerns regarding their brain health.

Obtaining additional support is completely normal, and seniors shouldn’t be ashamed about seeking professional help. Just remember that the first step is recognizing a memory problem. A close family member, friend, or adult child will be able to encourage seniors to seek professional support if needed.

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