It may begin as bouts of forgetfulness, such as forgetting where you left your keys, or entering a room and struggling to remember why you went in there. But while these incidents may seem benign, they could be warning signs of something more serious.
We know that brain health is essential to preserving independence as we get older, and the thought of losing cognitive function as we age can be terrifying. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your brain health and reduce your chances of experiencing cognitive decline, allowing you to live a full and vibrant life.
What is Brain Health?
Brain health, as defined by the National Institute on Aging, refers to how well an individual’s brain functions across four key areas:
- Cognitive health, or how well an individual thinks, learns and remembers
- Motor function, or how well an individual controls their movements
- Emotional function, or how well an individual processes and responds to emotions
- Tactile function, or how well an individual feels and responds to touch
There are a variety of factors that can impact brain health. Strokes, traumatic brain injuries, mood disorders, substance abuse and memory diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can all affect an individual’s thinking, memory and concentration. But even in the absence of those underlying health issues, simply getting older can lead to cognitive decline.
Cognitive Decline in Older Adults
Older adults are especially vulnerable to cognitive decline, also known as cognitive impairment. It can occur gradually or suddenly, often signaled by common symptoms such as increasing forgetfulness and difficulty navigating familiar environments.
According to Kenneth Langa, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan who has conducted research on the epidemiology and costs of chronic diseases in older adults, approximately 20 to 25 percent of Americans 65 and older have mild cognitive impairment.
The good news is that Langa’s research also determined the prevalence of dementia in the United States declined significantly between 2000 and 2012. Dementia, which represents the loss of memory and other cognitive functions, affects an estimated 4 to 5 million older adults in the United States. But even as the U.S. population ages, with the number of U.S. adults age 65 and older expected to grow to almost 90 million by 2050, research suggests that the age-specific risk for dementia has declined in high-income countries over the last 25 years.
Increased education and better control of key cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia, are among the factors contributing to that decline in age-specific risk, according to researchers. So it is critical that older adults be proactive about their health and take steps to maintain their cognitive functions.
Tips for Boosting Brain Health
There are simple routines you can incorporate into your lifestyle that support good brain health. Here are three steps you can take to reduce the potential for cognitive decline.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Neglecting your physical health can result in a decline in your cognitive health. Take care to get all of the health screenings recommended for your age group. If you are living with chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and/or high cholesterol, be proactive about managing these conditions. Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night. We often think of our brain and body health as separate, but they are an integrated system.
Manage Your Stress
Stress is difficult to avoid. Over time, too much stress can take a toll on your brain, affecting memory and increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. To help manage your stress, practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises. It may also be worth writing in a journal to put your thoughts and feelings on paper.
Stay Active, Physically and Mentally
Exercising regularly and staying active can help maintain and improve your strength in addition to giving you more energy. Studies have shown that regular physical activity benefits the brain. Stimulating your mind is as important as exercising your body, so you should also be engaging in meaningful activities. Hobbies keep you happier and healthier, and activities that require you to learn a new skill may improve your thinking ability as well.
Live a Stimulating Life at Abbey Delray South
If you’re looking for a place that will keep you physically active and mentally sharp, you’ve reached your destination at Abbey Delray South. As a premier retirement community in Delray Beach, Florida, we provide our residents with a comfortable and connected lifestyle, supported by resort-style amenities and a calendar of life-enriching programs and activities.
Contact us today to schedule a tour and experience Abbey Delray South for yourself.