Ways to Maintain Cognitive Abilities as We Age

August 28, 2020
by TammyS | For Seniors

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Ways to Maintain Cognitive Abilities as We Age

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It used to be scientists believed the brain did not regenerate cells and that, once cells died and the nerve connections were lost, seniors lost certain abilities such as memory, language skills and reasoning.  A Columbia University research team led by Maura Boldrini discovered that brains do regenerate new cells (neurons), especially in the areas responsible for memory.  The study found that what is different in seniors is reduced blood flow to nourish brain cells, so they divide less and generate fewer new neurons in older brains.

Certain amounts of age-related cognitive loss can be combatted by employing physical and mental exercises

  1. Walking will increase blood flow to the body and brain, even if it is just walk around the block a couple of times a day.  If you are unable to walk then stationary exercises in the home such as standing on one leg and then switching to the other or strength building may be beneficial to you (always contact your physician before starting a new exercise regimen that he or she has not agree to for you).
  2. Keep your mind active with picture puzzles, card games, crossword puzzles, word puzzles, Scrabble, Sudoku, checkers, chess or other “thinking” games. 
    1. If you are adept with the internet or have a smart phone, you can find many of these games online for your computer or phone. 
    2. If not, perhaps get together with friends for card games once or twice a week. 
    3. Buy a picture puzzle or two at the level of difficulty that is right for you and try to work on it daily or more.
    4. Purchase books of crossword puzzles, brain teasers and other games.  Many are available in large print to make them easier to see.
  3. Be certain to get the proper nutrition.  Seniors often experience a decrease in appetite as they age, and this can result in a lack of brain function.  Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as many are high in antioxidants and assist in preventing oxidative stress (consult your physician for appropriateness if you are on any type of restricted diet).
  4. If possible, get out of the house at least once a week or more and mingle with others.  Social interaction is a great way to increase brain power and use your memory.  Whether that means a shopping trip, craft fair, or enjoying lunch or dinner with friends or family members, it is important to socialize and be a part of the world around us.
  5. If you enjoy writing, start a daily journal.  You can record memories from your past, plans for the future, your “bucket list” or whatever else appeals to you.
  6. Get enough sleep and rest.  That amount is different for everyone, but the goal is between 7 to 9 hours daily.  That may even mean taking a little nap in the afternoon as long as it does not interfere with sleeping at night.
  7. Try not to have too much stress or worry about things you have no control over.  If you find that you are, you may want to try meditation.  Even a few minutes daily can reduce pain and stress, reduce blood pressure, and improve memory.
  8. If possible, plan something new every so often.  It can be planning a trip you have been wanting to take, learning a new game or skill, painting, a book club, learning to eat with chopsticks, etc.  This will help boost your brain power, give you something to look forward to and widen your brain perception.
  9. Try to maintain a weight that is appropriate for your age and body type.  Obesity can lead to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.  It can also cause inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are detrimental to your brain.
  10. And, finally, if you smoke try to quit.  Smoking creates alterations in the brain and your cognitive abilities will decline faster than non-smokers.  Smoking also decreases your brain volume and increases your risk of dementia.

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