Our associate Edward Francis explains here few important tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities when feeling forgetful. He says, “….If you’ve recently noticed that you’re going through some thinking issues, it could mean that your mental abilities are decreasing. Are you having issues remembering where you put your house keys? Do you struggle remembering what you did yesterday? These are common changes that the brain may be experiencing as you age…” But we could ask: how can seniors distinguish common thinking issues from severe health conditions linked to mental stability such as Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Understanding the brain and its functions
As you age, your brain’s volume begins to shrink. As soon as this happens, the nerve cells inside your brain may lose connections with your other nerve cells and just shrink. The blood flowing through the brain loses intensity as we age. This is an age-related change that is believed to be the root cause of cognitive decline. It is perfectly normal to experience memory lapses every now and then; however significant memory loss is not part of the aging process. It is important to make an appointment with a physician and know for sure whether or not your memory loss is a sign of cognitive decline or not. Cognitive symptoms that get in the way of your daily activities must not be overlooked as these will interfere with your daily activities.
Changes in the brain that might trigger dementia
Dementia is a form of cognitive decline in mental abilities, including language skills, reasoning, memory, perception and judgment. The causes are different from patient to patient. Alzheimer’s in particular, is one of the most common forms of dementia. It materializes when the brain’s nerve cells deteriorate and die. Vascular dementia on the other hand, happens when the brain’s nerve fibers are damaged by cardiovascular or cerebrovascular problems, most commonly strokes.
Tips for seniors to prevent cognitive decline
Promising medical research shows that taking into consideration the following steps might help preserve your mental abilities as you get older.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control – adhere to a healthier lifestyle. Exclude unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar and salt from your diet, and focus your attention on eating more vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Daily walking for 30 minutes or swimming should keep your blood pumping and your cholesterol levels under control.
- Quit smoking & alcohol consumption – both smoking and alcohol consumption may increase your chances of developing dementia as you age. It’s ok to have a glass of wine in the evening, but make sure to drink in moderation.
- Work out – regular physical activity is believed to help preserve adequate blood flow into the brain; daily activities that keep the blood pumping may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, an ailment directly linked to developing dementia.
- Keep your brain stimulated – mental stimulation is vital for your brain health. Stay active by boosting your degree of social interaction. Play challenging games (chess, solve puzzles) and engage in daily activities to keep your brain engaged.
Poor concentration can be a major cause for memory loss. Seniors can start forgetting things when their brains are not properly stimulated. Boredom and lack of stimulation may be a trigger for developing severe anxiety and depression. That’s why it is fundamental for seniors to find activities that can sustain mental stability. Reading books, solving puzzles, and playing chess should definitely be checked out.
Home care and professional healthcare
Many seniors don’t want to admit that they can’t manage on their own anymore, and they would do anything to preserve their independence for as long as possible. That’s not always the smartest thing you can do. If you’re becoming forgetful it’s best to ask for help. Turn to your family and friends, and consider home care. Hiring a caregiver to help you with your grocery shopping, daily home maintenance and cleaning might also be a great idea.
Bottom line is, we can’t put an end to the aging process; and whether we like it or not at some point in life our brains will deteriorate. Most people are terrified of nursing homes; they don’t want to be left alone in a place filled with stranger. And yet, the idea of care homes is not as scary as it seems. There are comfortable facilities where you can enjoy an active lifestyle, interact with people your age, and live a happy and fulfilling life. All you have to do is take a leap of faith!