As we age, we tend to notice a few changes in ourselves, both physically and mentally. Firstly, you may notice that you may not walk as far and fast as you used to or you may no longer have the best balance and flexibility. Furthermore, your eyesight may no longer be the best and soon your reading glasses become your everything glasses. Your hearing, of course, is also affected and an improperly functioning hearing aid becomes the perfect excuse for ignoring certain people. Perhaps the most noticeable and prevalent change of aging occurs to our memory. You may often find yourself looking for your car keys for ten minutes before leaving the house and spend another ten minutes looking for your sunglasses only to realize they were in your hand the entire time. At times, you may even forget simple words and the names of certain people to the point where they introduce themselves by saying their name followed by the classic “You remember me, don’t you?”
The truth is that aging has some “side effects” and, unfortunately, a change in cognitive function is one of these side effects. These changes, however, are normal and part of the natural decline of brain function, regardless of cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Cognitive decline, as experts call it, tends to begin around the age of fifty and sixty, depending on individual health history. Cognitive health is composed of a few important elements including memory, judgement, perception, language, thought, and attention. It is these elements that are often compromised during cognitive decline.
The rate and severity of cognitive decline, however, varies among individuals. There are certain risk factors that may increase the rate of memory loss and the decline of other cognitive functions. High cholesterol, obesity, heart disease, smoking, hypertension, and lack of exercise are a few of the common risk factors that may be associated to cognitive decline and, in some cases, cognitive impairment. Stress can also contribute to an increased risk of developing permanent cognitive impairment.
Luckily, there are certain lifestyle changes and some simple exercises that can be helpful in helping preserve memory and even improve cognitive function. First and foremost, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and stress levels can significantly decrease the risk of the severe progression of cognitive decline. Following a thought out diet and meeting with a dietitian can do wonders for you body and brain. Eliminating smoking and high alcohol consumption from your diet would also also be a push in the right direction. Furthermore, regular exercise and consistent participation in some sort of meditation or yoga therapy can aid you in aging gracefully.
Along with physical exercise, mental exercises are also important, especially when it comes to improving mental skills and cognitive function. Stimulating your brain is crucial, especially for those over the age of sixty. To help improve your memory try learning the lyrics to your favorite song or making your favorite recipe solely from memory. Singing, reading, learning a foreign language and even repeating the alphabet while exercising can greatly reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Doing puzzles or participating in drawing, painting, and even knitting can be helpful in improving cognitive health as you age.
Aging is part of life and whether we like it or not, there are certain problems that are often associated with aging, including memory loss. Fortunately, you can take measures of preventing severe cognitive impairment by performing simple exercises that are designed to improve memory and motor skills. So, now you have a choice. You can choose to be that grandparent at family reunions who has trouble remembering everyone’s name or you can be that grandparent who sings along to your favorite jam as you drive your grandchildren to school without missing a single word. Choose to age with grace. Choose to age with class. Choose to age with purpose.