Brain Matters: Maintaining Cognitive Health as You Age
Maintaining Cognitive Health as You Age
As the average life span increases, so does the focus on aging successfully and maintaining quality of life for as long as possible by keeping the body fit and healthy. However, taking care of your mental wellbeing in addition to your physical wellbeing is something that cannot be understated. Cognitive health encompasses your ability to think, learn, and remember—any impairment in which can greatly impact your functionality and independence as you age. The following are some of the most-widely researched variables involved in maintaining mental sharpness in old age:
- Lifelong Learning: Numerous studies have demonstrated just how vital education and knowledge acquisition can be to protecting memory and mental sharpness in old age. Adults who had more complex and stimulating jobs typically retain a higher level of cognitive function later in life and demonstrate a slower decline. Similarly, older adults who seek out intellectual engagement through their hobbies later in life appear to experience cognitive benefits.
- Social Interaction: It has been widely observed that older adults who become socially isolated experience a mental decline that is much steeper than their peers. The Epidemiological Study of the Elderly studied the social patterns of over 2000 adults living in retirement communities. Those who demonstrated lower levels of social engagement not only had increased mortality, but also had a much steeper cognitive decline, emphasizing the importance of remaining socially involved for as long as possible.
- Physical Activity: One of the best things ways to promote healthy aging is engage in a regular exercise regimen, and this extends to mental functioning as well. Regular physical activity promotes cerebral blood flow, neuron formation, and brain volume. Neural health is an essential component of mental wellbeing, and exercise is one of the best and most direct ways to promote this.
- Diet and Nutrition: Studies have shown that nutrition is not only critical in maintaining cognitive functioning, but also in preventing the onset of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Consuming a diet rich in nutrients, fats, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals has been shown to support healthy mental function.
It is important to remember that not all elements of slowed cognition are unavoidable components of aging. Successful aging requires a holistic evaluation of emotional and environmental stressors and the promotion of healthy habits that support both the mind and body as functionality begins to decline. Maintaining mental health and cognition is a vital part of promoting increased independence and functionality during the aging process.