Cognitive Health as We Age: 3 Ways Older Adults Can Promote Strong Cognitive Health
As we age, our bodies are constantly changing. This is a basic fact of life. We may grow hair in places where it wasn’t before, or begin losing hair in places where we’ve had plenty of it since we were children. It becomes more difficult to maintain muscle mass, while for many it becomes much easier to regain that mass in the form of fat.
But it isn’t only our physical health and fitness that changes as we grow older. Our mental fitness and cognitive health are also affected by the passing of time. For many adults, these changes can mean it is more difficult to remember things than it was before. For others, they may find it more of a challenge to organize the information they need for certain tasks throughout the day.
These changes in how our minds work are due to several interrelated factors which can be categorized into two basic areas: Brian Health and Cognitive Health.
Brain health, in this sense, refers to the physical changes that happen to our body and brain as we age which we have less ability to control. These may be due to brain trauma from injuries or stroke, for example. They may also be the result of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, or the result of substance abuse and addiction. These damaging events, large and small, accumulate and their effects become more apparent as we age.
Cognitive health, on the other hand, would refer to those aspects which as less physical and that we have more control over. This would include lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as social aspects of our lives.
Understanding Cognitive Health
Since we have some measure of control over the factors which affect cognitive health, it is important to understand these factors if we want to be able to keep our minds healthy as we age.
How Lifestyle Affects Cognitive Health
This may be the most obvious are of cognitive health, and it is possibly the one we have the most controlover.
How we live, what we do each day, will have a huge impact on our cognitive health in the long run and, luckily, there are several ways we can make changes today to get on the road to better cognitive health.
Lifestyle changes can include adjusting physical activities as well as mental activities.
One physical aspect of our lifestyle that plays a huge role in our cognitive health is our diet. Just like our bodies need protein, iron, calcium, and other nutrients to make our muscles and bones stronger, the brain also needs healthy nutrients to work at it’s best.
Diets with healthy fats, lean meats, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet, have shown promising results for cognitive health, while diets high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and processed foods may contribute to lower overall cognitive health.
Another physical lifestyle choice that has a huge effect on our cognitive health is the level of physical activity we get each day. Studies have shown that people who stay physically active may have positive outcomes related to cognitive health.
But it isn’t just physical activity that has positive benefits for our brains. Staying mentally active has also been shown to improve cognitive health as well. When the brain is active, it strengthens the neural pathways related to the various cognitive abilities we use every day. And just like any muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
How Environment Affects Cognitive Health
Environment is another area where we can make changes to improve our cognitive health outcomes.
Living in an environment where we are constantly feeling stressed or anxious may cause changes in the brain which negatively affect our cognitive health.
In addition to this, living in an area with high pollution, unclean air or water, or other unhealthy environmental factors can result in adverse effects on both our cognitive and physical health.
How Social Aspects Affect Cognitive Health
The third area which may have a strong influence on cognitive health is something which has quite a bit of overlap with both lifestyle and environmental aspects of our lives.
Having a strong social element can be incredibly beneficial to our overall cognitive and mental health. Conversely, social isolation may result in negative cognitive outcomes.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.