Why is it Important to Strengthen Your Brain?
The world population is aging rapidly and with that comes an increased focus on the challenges that come with advanced age. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the number of people over the age of 60 will increase from 900 million to two billion people. Because older people face special physical and mental health challenges, it is critical that our healthcare system and our caregivers understand all aspects of the risks to cognitive health in older adults.
To help support an elderly loved one dealing with a cognitive issue, or to help find ways to improve cognitive function in the elderly, it is important to understand the challenges, the risks and the best ways to stay healthy.
Cognitive Health in Older Adults
A certain amount of forgetfulness and slower mental recall responses are typical as we age. As our bodies begin to slow down, to an extent, so do our minds. However, there is a point where mental struggles in our older years need more attention. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 20 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a neurological or mental disorder. So, how do you know when to be concerned about cognitive health in older adults?
Understand what is normal forgetfulness and what is a more serious issue.
Adults of any age can lose their keys or forget the actor in their favorite movie. However, a more serious memory problem causes impediments to daily activities. Some signs to look for include:
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Inability to follow instructions
- Asking the same questions time and time again
- Losing track of time
- Not recognizing familiar people
Recognizing Mild Cognitive Impairment
This condition is common in brain health for seniors and simply means that an elderly adult has more memory struggles or thinking challenges than other adults their age. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) generally does not impede people from caring for themselves or managing their normal, daily activities. Signs of MCI include:
- Forgetting appointments or important events
- Losing important items
- Having difficulty coming up with words
Noting the Difference Between Dementia and Aging
Memory loss is a common part of cognitive health in older adults and is not the only sign of dementia. While there are many forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common for people over 65 years old. Some signs of dementia are:
- Difficulty with language skills
- Struggles with visual perception
- Short attention span or inability to pay attention
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
- Loss of ability to reason or solve problems
Mental Health for Seniors
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that more than 13 percent of adults in the US over the age of 50 are living with a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. The most common mental issue among people 60 and older is depression, followed by anxiety disorders.
While some sadness or concern about the changing circumstances of aging is completely normal, it is important to watch out for signs of a more serious issue. For the elderly, depression is often brought on by other serious or life-threatening diagnoses, or the loss of mobility or independence. If feelings of sadness or fear are interfering with a loved one’s ability to function or enjoy life, it may be worth discussing the circumstances with a physician.
Tips for Strengthening the Mind
There are many changes that can be made to daily routines to aid in strengthening the mind, creating both short and long-term benefits. These include:
Managing stress and blood pressure levels. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that having high blood pressure in midlife, meaning during your 40s through your early 60s, increases your risk of facing cognitive decline in your later years. To help and improve cognitive function, attend all recommended doctor’s appointments, find ways to release stress and keep your body active.
Staying social. Spending time with people through social and community activities is a great way to keep your brain active. The NIH reports that people who maintain personally meaningful activities tend to live longer and hold on to a sense of purpose. Volunteering, joining community groups for a hobby you enjoy and joining exercise groups for older adults are wonderful ways to stay engaged.
Keeping your mind active. There are many activities that can keep your mind sharp. From playing cards to doing crossword puzzles, lots of activities can help to stimulate your mind. However, there is no reason to stop there. If you are committed to strengthening the mind, learning a new skill, starting a new hobby or taking a class are great ways to keep your mind engaged. Additionally, participating in activities such as dance, music, theater and creative writing have shown promise for improving quality of life and well-being in older adults.
Eating healthy and exercising. In addition to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, a healthy diet can also keep your brain healthy. Drinking plenty of water, reducing your sugar intake and increasing your portions of fruits and fresh vegetables are all part of maintaining a healthy diet.
The Right Environment
For many elderly adults who want to continue to lead an active, engaged and healthy lifestyle, selecting a senior living facility is part of that process. Tiffany Springs Senior Living is a retirement community that offers both independent living and comprehensive aged care, including assisted living, rehabilitation and extended stay and memory care. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your needs.