5 Ways to Keep a Sharp Mind as You Age
You are getting older. You have begun noticing changes in your thinking and memory. Your keys are getting harder to find, you need a few extra moments of thought about where you parked or you struggle to find the right word to express yourself in conversations. Are these changes normal or perhaps signs of dementia?
When we age, our brain shrinks. Blood flow within it slows. The brain loses volume, causing a loss of some nerve cell connection. Memory lapses will occur with greater frequency. These lapses are a symptom of growing older, not necessarily a sign of dementia. One way to slow these symptoms is to take care of your body and your mind. Here are five ways to help keep your mind sharp as you age:
- Stimulate Your Brain. According to the Alzheimer Association, mental stimulation is important for brain health. Continuing to learn new skills, working crossword puzzles or math games and increasing social interaction are great ways to keep your mind active. Stay curious and involved in lifelong learning.
- Eat Smart. Studies show that eating plenty of vegetables and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, decrease risk for cognitive decline. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oils.
- Exercise Regularly. Staying physically active helps maintain regular blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk for high blood pressure, which is associated with the development of dementia.
- Quit Smoking and Limit Drinking. Both decrease cognitive function. If you smoke, stop. If you choose to drink, do so moderately.
- Control Your Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure. Either of these problems increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. They are also thought to contribute to the development of dementia. Having a healthy cardiovascular system means better blood flow, which is associated with improved cognitive function.
Aging is an inevitable fact of life. How we treat our bodies today can greatly affect our quality of life when we become elderly. As you age, make sure you continue to exercise, eat a well-balanced diet and keep your brain stimulated. The results can be a long and happy life full of memories.
About the Author
William Plonk, Jr., MD serves as a primary care physician with Mebane Medical Clinic at Cone Health MedCenter Mebane.