We are all concerned, to some extent, about our cognitive health as we get older. With Dementia, primarily Alzheimer’s disease, affecting over 5 million Americans (according to the National Institute on Aging), every time we walk into a room and forget why, we get concerned that we are losing our edge. We all experience something like that, or other similar moments where our mind just doesn’t cooperate, and we completely forget a name, what we were doing, or lose our train of thought.
More often than not, this is more a result of our busy, hectic lives, rather than something more serious, but how do we know for sure? This also begs the question, what can we do to help reduce the chance that our mind will fall victim to this debilitating and deadly disease?
In this post, we are going to explore 5 things you can do, proactively, in order to help keep your mind healthy and sharp, as we head into our golden years.
Before we jump into the 5 steps, we strongly encourage you to see your medical practitioner if you are experiencing any symptoms that concern you or your loved ones. This post is about proactive actions you can take to help keep your mind healthy, and should not be taken as medical advice, or an alternative to seeking medical advice with any concerns about Dementia or any other medical condition.
Alright, with that said, let’s get into the 5 Steps to Improve Cognitive Function as we Age:
- Eat Healthy: This may seem unimportant, however, there is an old expression that applies here: Garbage in equals garbage out. That saying applies in many areas, but is especially relevant when it comes to nutrition. If you don’t feed your body, and subsequently your mind, with healthy nutrients, your body and mind will ultimately let you down. So, how do you eat healthy without a complete pantry purge? Here are 5 ideas to get you started.
- Drink more water: Drink at least 8-8oz glasses of water per day. As I’m sure you know, our bodies are primarily made up of water, and we need to be sure we stay hydrated. Be sure to limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as they have a dehydrating effect. Find your favorite glass and keep it full of water and sip on it all day.
- More Omega 3: There is a ton of information out there touting the benefits of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. While that is definitely true, as Americans, we tend to ingest significantly more Omega 6s, than Omega 3s, and the Omega 3s are the ones that most help our brain. Some excellent sources of Omega 3s are: Certain fish (like salmon, shrimp, and trout), algae and seaweed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, and other sources. Stock up on these items and feed your brain the nutrients it needs.
- Control portion sizes: This may sound simple, but it’s easy to grab a bag of chips, or another tasty snack, and find yourself suddenly reaching into the bag and finding crumbs. Of, think about a time when you haven’t eaten much throughout the day…when it came to dinner time, did you find yourself devouring whatever was in sight, only to feel like you are about to explode a short time later because you ate too much? If you can portion out the quantities ahead of time, before you start eating (or, better yet, the day before or earlier in the day), you will set yourself up for success when it comes to portion sizes. This way, you know ahead of time when to stop eating, and not have to rely on “feeling full”, which is often delayed by 20 to 30 minutes.
- Get Physical Exercise: This will vary based on your mobility level, and what your doctor says you can do, but it’s important to be physically active. You can find several suggestions in this earlier blog post, with some ideas for all mobility levels. The main thing is to find something you enjoy that also gets your blood flowing. When your blood is circulating, that means its flowing through your brain as well, which helps deliver much-needed oxygen to your brain, helping keep it healthy.
- Exercise Your Mind: Just as important as physical exercise, is exercising your mind. This can be in the form of puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, Solitaire, or another solo activity, or it can be something like card games, board games, trivia, or something you can do with friends/family. The National Institutes on Health says that keeping your mind active can be extremely valuable in terms of mental cognition.
- Be Social: Did you know that researchers recently reported in the American Journal of Public Health, people who maintained large social networks “reduced their risk of dementia and delayed or prevented cognitive impairment”? This can take the form of one of the games mentioned in number 3, or it can simply be meeting friends for lunch, getting together with friends and/or family just to catch up, going with friends to a museum or art gallery, or any number of social events where you can interact with friends. Get out there and get social.
- Get Quality Sleep: We have all become horrible in this area. A study shows that Americans are currently getting an average of 6.8 hours of sleep per night. The recommendation for adults (anyone over 18) is between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. It may seem that we are close to the lower part of that range, I mean what’s a difference of .02, right? The reality is, we are not getting good quality sleep. Sometimes we have medications that interfere with our sleep, or have insomnia or sleep apnea, or another condition that can’t be avoided. In most cases, however, the lack of sleep is self-inflicted, either by purposely staying up too late, getting up too early, or a disruption caused by electronic devices. Take this opportunity to assess your sleep, and help yourself out by getting more, higher quality sleep.
Hopefully you are able to get something from the 5 tips above. They may seem simple, however, these 5 things are extremely important to, not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. If you find that you have several opportunities for improvement from the above list, just start with number 1 and work your way down. Small, steady steps forward are better than no steps at all.
Silver Companions is here to help you. We have you, and your loved ones’, best interests in mind. Do you, or someone you love, struggle with one of the above steps? We are happy to talk with you about your situation and see if we can help. There is never any cost or obligation for the first consultation, and never, ever, any pressure. We simply want to help ensure your loved ones have the best possible care. Reach out to us by phone at (678) 494-8129, or email us at info@SilverCompanionsGA.com. When you do, mention that you read this blog, 5 Steps to Improve Cognitive Function as we Age. We look forward to speaking with you soon.