When it comes to long-term brain health, there are a number of environmental and genetic factors that can impact or determine cognitive decline and the likelihood of developing dementia.
While processing speeds inevitably slow down through aging, these things shouldn’t impact your lifestyle if you have taken care of your brain health. By partaking in independent activities, continuing to learn new things, and maintaining a strong memory, you can keep your brain happy and healthy long-term.
In this post, we’re going to discuss the early signs of cognitive decline and how you can change your environment and lifestyle to promote a happy and healthy brain – ultimately reducing the risk of developing dementia, or at least limiting the impact it has on your life.
Risk factors related to cognitive decline
As mentioned above, both genetics and environmental factors play a role in the likelihood of developing dementia. And while there’s no way to completely eliminate the chances of genetic risk, a lot can be done to reduce the impact of environmental factors. Addressing this as early as possible can significantly extend your independence, too.
Early signs of dementia
Early diagnosis of dementia, or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), is the best way to reduce the impact the condition has on your life. In fact, early detection gives you the opportunity to make changes to improve cognitive function. Recognizing the signs early can increase the chances of you living a full and independent life long into the golden years.
Early signs include:
- Reduced problem-solving abilities
- Visual and perceptual deficits
- Low mood and mental health issues such as Depression
- Gait slowing while multitasking
- Physical performance and psychomotor skills slowing
Mitigating dementia impact: prevention is key
Of course, prevention and awareness are much easier to control than maintaining cognitive function after diagnosis. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can avoid, prevent or reduce the chances of cognitive decline every day. Poor diet, badly managed diabetes, smoking and alcohol consumption can all dramatically increase the chances of decline, with the opposite reducing the risk. But all of this can go amiss with a low level of education on the topic and a lack of physical activity.
Seniors need to take responsibility for their own health and evaluate how they can improve their environmental factors. Adding a 15-minute walk into the day or reducing alcohol intake could be a quick and easy to implement change that significantly reduces the chances of developing the condition.
Brain stimulating activities can also help to improve or maintain cognitive function. Crossword puzzles, quizzes, or even cooking can keep the brain active for longer. All of this combined can keep you on the path of healthy aging.
Below are several environmental factors that can prevent developing the condition or reduce the impact dementia has on your life. Using the following tips, you can continue to live a fulfilling, happy and healthy life.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy diet is important at any age but particularly important as we get older. A Mediterranean diet can often be the best option for seniors, as it is rich in nutrients. Some may find it easier to follow the advice provided by DASH, the Mediterranean and Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.
Another part of the healthy lifestyle is to develop a good sleeping pattern.
Brain training games or learning a new skill can keep the brain stimulated. Rather than sitting back and just watching the TV all day, seniors that find things to challenge them can benefit from a healthy mind for longer. Even just doing the crossword at the back of the paper each day can help.
Exercise can help to improve or maintain mobility, reduce the symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety and stress, and keep the brain and heart healthy. Seniors should look into taking up aerobic exercise classes or practicing yoga and tai chi.
In old age, we can often become isolated at home. Engaging with peers and community groups can keep your brain healthy and functioning. Joining a book club or a rambling society can combine stimulating the brain with the socializing aspect that so many seniors miss out on.
Belmont Village Fort Lauderdale recently collaborated with the Mather Institute and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine on a study that found that seniors who took part in gratitude and value-based activities experienced more resilience and wisdom as well as reduced stress levels.
Taking time to sit back and think about those little things you’re grateful for or writing down five positives from the day can really help with keeping a positive mindset and attitude.
Retirement doesn’t mean the end of feeling like you have a purpose. Keeping the stories from a rich life alive can help maintain memory and cognitive function. Share your stories with others over a coffee or in the local community, and share your expertise, too. You could even volunteer your skills to help others in the local area.
Different stages of MCI and severe dementia
As mentioned above, early diagnosis or prevention can be significantly beneficial; however, these early signs could also simply be symptoms of aging. Ailments linked to aging can be plotted onto a spectrum, and depending on which stage a person is at, there are different focuses. For example, those with memory loss or impairment linked to MCI can benefit from mental stimulation and the tips above. Meanwhile, those suffering from more severe dementia are more likely to require additional support and care – for example, in an assisted living community or other long-term care options.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing dementia – either prior or after diagnosis. As there are so many potential contributing factors, it also means there are many pathways a person can take to better or prevent the condition. If you’re concerned, it’s worth discussing this with relatives and seeking professional help from your physician. With a support network on your side, you can create checkpoints and goals to improve or maintain cognitive function so that even if the condition develops, it’ll have a reduced impact on your lifestyle.
Working to stay healthy, exercise more regularly, and keep the brain active, can do wonders to prevent the condition altogether. But an early diagnosis can ensure that seniors continue to live their life to the fullest. For those already at the point of needing extra support, it is worth researching potential care options and other measures that can be taken to prevent the condition from worsening.