As we age, the stereotype is that our cognitive function rapidly declines. While getting older does mean that our cells—and therefore our physical bodies—age as we do, it is still possible to maintain a high level of brain power, no matter how old you are. However, this does not happen by chance: There are many ways in which you can work to make sure your brain function is maintained and even enhanced during the aging process.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have provided a seven-step guide, or “Life’s Simple 7”, to create optimal brain health as you age, all of which focus on physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet:
- Get regular exercise
- Eat a nutritious, wholesome diet
- Keep within a healthy weight range
- Work to control cholesterol
- Regular blood sugar levels
- Manage blood pressure
- Quit or prevent smoking
Regular exercise for older adults can mean anything from daily to semi-daily walks to swimming or social exercise classes. Moderate physical activity each day can do wonders to helping create optimal cognitive function at any age. By working to maintain a nutritious and wholesome diet, many of the other goals on the list, such as weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, will also be more easily managed. Making sure you have regular doctor’s visits to check on these vital signs is also a critical part of following these aims.
Keep Up Mental Activity
Challenging your brain in fun and creative ways is actually an easy and impactful way to helping you maintain and enhance your brain power and memory. Whether you choose to play Sudoku or do a daily crossword puzzle, or even download a few apps on a device that work to improve cognitive performance, you are helping train your brain to continue to perform tasks and build memories at a healthy capacity for your age.
Another way to keep up your mental activity is to review photos and stories from throughout your life to help strengthen your long-term memory. If you’re up for it, to improve your short-term memory you can try to learn a new language or play a musical instrument. No matter how old you are, focusing on these hobbies can not only be fun but do wonders for your cognitive performance.
Making sure you stay social as you age can also improve your brain power. Having conversations with people about old times or current news events can help enhance your memory. And, these social interactions can also provide opportunities to exercise or even cook healthy meals together. In general, social interactions can also support a healthier mindset, which in turn affects your ability to have full cognitive capacity.
Together, all of these options to maintain or enhance your cognitive function can vastly improve the aging process and your quality of life in later years. In any case, a healthy lifestyle, maintaining mental activity, and social interaction are generally good practices for living a more fulfilling life at any age.