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Health & Wellness

Why Brain Health Declines as We Age (and How To Prevent It)

Throughout life, our bodies are continually changing – including our brains. Since your brain’s condition is responsible for vital functions such as processing information, making decisions, communicating, memory and more, it’s important to take care of its health. 

Brain health, defined by the World Health Organization, includes the development, function, plasticity and recovery of the brain throughout life. There are multiple aspects that comprise brain health: motor, emotional and tactile function and cognition. All of these areas impact your sense of well-being and ability to navigate daily life.

Factors that may impact your brain health include: 

  • Stress 
  • Diet 
  • Genetics 
  • Mental illnesses 
  • Alcohol and drug use 
  • Health issues, such as stroke or a traumatic injury
  • Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia
  • Health conditions, like epilepsy or multiple sclerosis
  • Social engagement 

While mild cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, there are things you can do to improve it and mitigate aging’s impact on brain health

The Impact of Aging on Brain Health

Common changes that occur in our brain as we age include loss of brain mass, myelin, cortical density and neurotransmitter function. This decline impacts our cognitive abilities such as memory, learning new skills and thinking through problems. These may manifest as being slower to remember names or find the right words. While there is a certain level of cognitive decline that everyone experiences with aging, seniors can still participate in many of their favorite pastimes, make memories and learn new skills at any age. 

How To Improve Brain Health 

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to preserve and improve your brain health. This includes making changes to all aspects of your life: physical, spiritual, mental, social and intellectual.

Stay Socially Engaged 

Your environment and relationships are an important part of maintaining good brain health. Make time to get involved in your local community. Form friendships through philanthropic causes you’re passionate about. Get connected through group classes and activities. Build relationships with people in a similar life stage by moving into a senior living community. Prioritize relationships with longtime friends and family. If they live far away, video chat is a great way to stay connected. 

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is fundamental to good mental and physical health. It reduces your stress levels, lowers your risk of chronic disease and boosts overall wellness. In older adults, regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive performance in seniors who don’t have cognitive impairments.

Exercise also improves your cardiovascular health and enhances blood flow throughout the body and to the brain. Practice a holistic exercise regimen that includes aerobic and mind-body exercises, like yoga, and strength training.

Sleep Well

Getting enough sleep helps with memory and cognition and gives your brain the rest it needs to recover from a busy day. Get between seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. 

Optimize your sleep quality with a calming, electronics-free nighttime routine. Before you go to sleep, do relaxing activities such as reading, meditation or prayer, stretching, journaling and breathing exercises. Avoid consuming large meals and caffeine late in the evening. 

Consume a Nutritious Diet 

Foods high in antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to have brain-boosting effects. These include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Dark chocolate
  • Berries 
  • Oily fish, such as salmon and tuna
  • Avocados 
  • Nuts – walnuts, in particular 
  • Kale 
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Tea and coffee

You also want to limit your consumption of alcohol and cut out smoking. Both may increase your risk of cognitive decline and negatively impact your cardiovascular health.

Prioritize Your Mental Health 

Your relationships with loved ones, the foods you eat and regular exercise contribute to good mental health. In addition to living a healthy lifestyle, you want to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, such as depression. Depression is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline. Getting the assistance you need to achieve good mental health may make a big difference in not only your brain health, but also your quality of life. 

Stay Mentally Stimulated 

Activities that challenge your mind are a great way to strengthen it

  • Take a class online or in person 
  • Complete a crossword puzzle
  • Play chess and bridge
  • Finish a jigsaw puzzle
  • Participate in a creative activity like painting or drawing
  • Learn a new skill, like how to play an instrument.

However you choose to spend your time, ensure that you are physically or mentally engaged while doing it. This regular stimulation is key to your ongoing cognitive health.

How You or Your Loved One Can Stay Mentally Engaged at Beacon Hill 

At Beacon Hill, it’s our mission to empower our residents to make the most of their golden years. With an abundance of health and wellness opportunities and a tailored wellness plan, living at Beacon Hill may help you take the steps necessary to protect your cognitive health as you age. We also provide on-site dining venues offering fresh produce, signature smoothies and in-season menus.

Schedule a tour to see what life at Beacon Hill could look like for you. 

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