Many seniors are understandably anxious about the prospect of dealing with cognitive decline, and especially serious conditions such as incurable dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are ways to slow the process of some forms of cognitive decline. The strategies listed below fall into three broad areas: diet and exercise, human interaction, and mental stimulation. These strategies are effective in helping you to stay mentally sharp.
Diet and Exercise
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can help keep your body trim and your joints fluid, along with promoting overall good health. However, a good diet and regular exercise can also help you sleep better and improve your mood. As an added bonus, a healthy diet and exercise can also help slow or prevent cognitive decline. Exercise does not need to be strenuous; even a daily walk provides substantial benefits.
You’re never too old to exercise. We have people in their 90’s at our assisted living homes working out with our personal trainer. You can see videos of them here. The videos show exercises you or your loved one can do at home to help with their health and their range of motion.
Hormone levels can play a huge role in whether you age well or not. As we grow older, our hormone levels generally drop. An obvious indication of this is menopause. Hormone Replacement Therapy is designed to help raise hormone levels in women to reduce the symptoms that women have to deal with.
Many hormone problems as we age can also be reduced through a proper diet. Specifically things to look out for according to the author of the book “The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger Longer with Natural Hormone and Nutrition Therapies” Thierry Hurtaugh:
- A diet high in good saturated fats, low carbs, moderate protein and lots of vegetables promotes healthy hormone levels at any age
- Grain and sugar decrease seven of the 12 most important hormones
- Alcohol decreases Human Growth Hormone. It can be as bad as a ¾ reduction in HGH with just one drink
- Magnesium helps with sex hormone levels by raising your testosterone and HGH. You can take magnesium as a supplement
Scientific research has demonstrated that excessive isolation can have similar detrimental health effects as diabetes, obesity, or smoking. Isolation is a prevalent problem among seniors. One in six seniors overall, and six of ten older women, are at risk of suffering prolonged isolation.
However, maintaining social connections and participating in social activities is an important factor in slowing or helping to prevent cognitive decline. Even if you have no family members living nearby, interacting with your neighbors can help you form and maintain vital social ties.
Plan a trip, either around the world or around the corner. It’s not the distance that’s important. Any activity that gets you out of the house and among people can help prevent depression and loneliness. If travel isn’t in the cards, consider adopting a shelter puppy. Taking your new four-legged friend for daily walks is bound to attract attention from fellow dog lovers – who can potentially become new friends. You’ll also get a good daily workout as a bonus.
Finding friends and people with similar interest as close as your own neighborhood can really help as well. We notice a lot of the residents at our assisted living homes become much more outgoing and friendly once they spend time with other residents their age.
Volunteering your time and efforts provides a double bonus. You’ll naturally interact with others, which is an excellent way of preventing isolation, while also learning new skills or using skills you already have, which helps your brain stay sharp. You can also stimulate your brain by learning something new. Have you always wanted to learn French or Spanish? Perhaps you’d like to learn how to play the piano or guitar. Developing new skills helps you maintain cognitive skills and can help slow or prevent cognitive decline as you age.
Unless you are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline is not an inevitable part of aging. Stay active, connect with others, and commit yourself to regular mental stimulation. That’s a recipe for aging well!