ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A common belief among the public is that aging is a downhill slope accompanied by difficulty learning new skills, rigid thinking, and ultimately ending with dementia. Although 62 percent of people in the United States fear the loss of mental capacity whereas 29 percent of people fear physical disabilities. Doctors say these negative assumptions about the brain power to grow and learn create a vicious cycle of mental inactivity and decline. Major research based on new imaging techniques have advanced science and offer a more positive view of cognitive function in older adults.
Cognitive vitality is essential to quality of life and survival in old age. With normal aging, cognitive changes such as slowed speed of processing are common.
University of Miami, Prof., Neurology & Psychiatry, James E. Galvin, MD, MPH says, “Dementia’s a general word. It describes a change in memory and thinking abilities that interfere with their everyday activities.”
Scientific research suggests that there are steps linked to cognitive health. Making these part of your routine could help you function better.
The first step is eating for your brain. There is growing evidence that specific diets — including the Mediterranean diet – may promote brain health. These healthy, balanced options include whole foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetables rich in vitamins, nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The second step is getting enough sleep. Impaired sleep contributes to cognitive decline and may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. To protect your brain, establish a bedtime routine, maintain a regular sleep schedule, and treat any sleep-disordered breathing such as apnea.
One more step to protect your brain power is to be social. Loneliness and depression can impair cognitive health, causing memory loss and attention deficits. Maintain and build your social connections. And if you experience depression, get support.
Doctor Galvin says. “If you could live your whole life well, it’s much more important than living your life long.”
Other ways to protect your brain power are exercising, alleviating stress, continuing to learn, and managing chronic illnesses like arthritis.
Contributors to this news report include: Adahlia Thomas, Producer; Roque Correa,
STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR BRAIN POWER
BACKGROUND: Most people today can expect to live into their sixties and beyond. A longer life brings opportunities, not only for older people and their families, but also for societies. It provides the chance to pursue new activities like furthering education, starting a new career, or looking into a passion that was put on hold. The extent of these opportunities, however, depends heavily on health. If people can experience the later years of life in good health and live in a supportive environment, their ability to do the things they value will be little different from that of a younger person. Maintaining healthy behaviors throughout life, particularly eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and refraining from tobacco use, all contribute to reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases, improving physical and mental capacity, and delaying care dependency.
COGNITIVE HEALTH AND OLDER ADULTS: Cognitive health is the ability to think clearly, to learn, and to remember. It is just one aspect of overall brain health. Other aspects of brain health include motor function, emotional function, and tactile function. While some factors affecting brain health cannot be changed, there are many lifestyle changes that may make a difference. Preventing or controlling high blood pressure, not only helps the heart, but may help the brain too. Decades of studies have shown that having high blood pressure in your 40’s to early 60’s increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes and may also help keep the brain healthy. Studies link ongoing physical activity with benefits for the brain and cognition. In one study, exercise stimulated the human brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are vital to cognitive health. Finally, people who engage in personally meaningful activities, such as volunteering or hobbies, say they feel happier and healthier, as well as learning new skills which may improve cognitive health, too.
GREEN SPACE MAY BOOST COGNITIVE HEALTH: According to an NIA-funded study, residential areas with more green space were associated with faster thinking, better attention, and higher overall cognitive function in middle-aged women. A team of researchers from Boston University, Harvard University, and Rush University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, analyzed cognitive test and residential green space data from 13,594 women with an average age of 61. The participants took online cognitive tests that measured psychomotor speed, attention, learning, and working memory. Then, using satellite image-based technology, the researchers determined the amount of green space around each participant’s home. Results showed women living in areas with more green space had higher scores on thinking speed, attention, and overall cognitive function. This translates to your brain being 1.2 years younger. The authors noted that most of the participants were white, therefore, additional research is needed to understand how racial disparities and socioeconomic factors affect the association between green space and cognitive function.
* For More Information, Contact: James Galvin, MD, MPH
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