The aging brain often struggles to make older connections; the “senior moment” has happened to nearly everyone over the age of 50. However, it is possible to support an aging brain with the right activities and habits.
1. Exercise the Body to Engage the Brain
Aging brains often suffer damaged or non-functioning synapses. This is the space between the neurons where brain activity actually travels. Regular exercise of the body benefits the synaptic brain protein levels in these gaps. More brain protein literally means more brain power. More of your neurons can get busy working on problem-solving after a workout. If you’re considering doing a puzzle to build a better brain, start with a 30-minute walk to reduce inflammation and open up those synapses.
2. Change Diet to Reduce Toxin Load
Fresh foods and raw veggies are key to a healthy brain. Foods that promote inflammation, such as those high in sodium and preservatives, can lower your cognitive abilities. Replacing even 10% of your caloric intake of processed foods with fresh berries, for example, can reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Eggs, lentils, and greens can also protect your brain over time.
3. Monitor and Control Blood Pressure
Memory problems can be quite terrifying. If your loved one is struggling with anxiety or memory troubles, regular blood pressure monitoring and the proper medication from a memory care services specialist can help. Many memory professionals and supportive facilities can also help by providing memory maps to maintain connections.
4. Keep Learning
If your loved one spends their days watching just one news program or relying on their favorite old movies, they may begin to suffer brain atrophy. Creating new neural pathways is critical to keeping an older brain healthy. Relying on the same old experiences every day will not foster strong cognitive growth. Audiobooks, podcasts with new perspectives, and even live lectures can be a wonderful way to help an older person learn new perspectives and viewpoints.
5. Create New Things
Learning new tasks can be very hard for a busy brain, but it can be much more difficult for an aging brain. Encourage older adults to try new things and do them badly for a time. You may have to join a loved one for a painting class or make a messy mosaic together. Each new action can help them form new neural connections. Even better, a brain that becomes accustomed to making those connections will get better at it over time; resistance will drop as new tasks are undertaken.
6. Be an Active Member of Your Community
Isolation can lead to anxiety; loneliness can lead to depression. The depressed brain of a young person is often incapable of making new neural connections and an aging brain is even more limited. Recent world events have made community extremely difficult for everyone, but as older folks were at greater risk from infection, their isolation has been even more severe. Regular connections via phone and email can provide a break from isolation, but new connections in person can also contribute to the community and better brain health.
7. Manage Stress With Meditation
The progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s includes atrophy of the hippocampus. Daily meditation and mindfulness activities can support a healthy hippocampus by lowering daily stress. Chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels, high blood pressure, and increased belly fat. Because belly fat is tied to higher diabetes risk, stress management in any form is critical to a healthy aging brain.
8. Get Quality Sleep
Deep sleep is the time when the brain is cleansed of toxins. If a beloved senior citizen is struggling to sleep, make sure that their sleeping space is dark and cool. Carefully consider the quality and softness of their mattress; side sleepers need the most cushion while tummy sleepers need the least and pillows to need to be updated on a regular basis. Curiously, noise level challenges can be even harder for the aging brain to manage. While senior citizens may struggle to hear, they also struggle to drop into the deepest levels of sleep and are more likely to wake at a strange noise.
Good physical healthcare is critical to maintaining a healthy brain especially for seniors. A healthy diet and regular exercise is one of the simplest ways to start the process of brain support. Add daily meditation and regular checkups to support long life and a healthy brain.