AGING: FUTURE POSSIBILITIES, FULL FILLING LIFE, BRAIN HEALTH
October 13, 2019|Active lifestyle, advocacy, Ageism, Aging Parents, brain health, Cognition, Fulfilling Life, Generations, Grandparents, Legacy, Life with Purpose, Longevity, Passions, possibilities, Purposeful Living, Quality of Life, volunteering, Well-Being, Wisdom
The decline in physical ability and mental acuity as we age are realities of the aging process. And, in the case of dementia, the cognitive decline* can be even more precipitous and pronounced. But can we engage in activities that promote physical, mental and emotional well-being, help us continue to live a purposeful and fulfilling life, as well as stave off or lessen the effects of decline. The answer is a resounding, YES!!
Furthermore, remaining active and engaged in our advancing years is an important legacy to future generations about the meaning of future possibilities.
1. GET UP AND GET MOVING:
Regular exercise that elevates your heart rate increases the flow of blood to the body and the brain, sometimes referred to as breaking a sweat, has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Studies throughout the years have found there is a link between increased physical activity and reducing the risk of cognitive decline. This can include a regular schedule of walking, running, swimming, or another form of exercise of your choice. Even a slow but steady exercise for extended periods, like gardening, has proven to be helpful. Maybe this is the ideal time to commit or recommit to your fitness goals.
You can also find a new passion or explore an old one.
A 2017 article in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience reported that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, but that dancing had the most significant effect.
The results were reported as a result of a study which compared people whoparticipated in dancing and endurance training. The lead author of the study, Dr.Kathrin Rehfeld, concluded that dancing is a “powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”
2. GET HEARTY:
Taking care of your heart should be a priority. The same risk factors that we know causes cardiovascular disease and stroke, namely obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, can also be risk factors for cognitive decline.Therefore, adjust your lifestyle in accordance for a healthy heart and you may be helping your brain at the same time.
3. FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Eating a diet lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit may help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. This is not as evidenced based as other areas, however, people who live in countries eating what is known as the Mediterranean diet, and many other people who have adopted it around the world, as well as another version known as the Mediterranean-DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), are said to experience a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
4. GET BOOK SMART:
When the brain is actively engaged in learning it is not only merely keeping it more healthy and vibrant, it could reduce the risk of decline. There are many adult education classes suited to almost any area of interest. They are offered at local colleges, high schools, community centers, libraries or even online. This also helps staying socially engaged by connecting with others who have similar interests.
5. GET REST:
As we get older, it is not always easy to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. However, one should still try to get enough sleep so they feel rested. Lack of sufficient sleep can result in memory and thinking problems.
6. “DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY”:
The words in the song convey an important message. There are studies that draw a direct connection between depression and cognitive decline. It is important to be able to recognize if you are experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. If you are aware of having these issues, know you are not alone. Speak with your physician or seek treatment through other avenues. If a friend or family member recognizes that you are having these symptoms and opens up a discussion, it means the symptoms are significant. Appreciate the fact that they are concerned and are doing you a great favor!
7. GET FRIENDLY:
The importance of staying connected with others cannot be overstated, whether it be family, old friends or making new ones. Finding activities in your community that you enjoy will help you stay socially engaged. A few examples: Always loved photography? Consider joining a photography club, Hiking or nature? There are many groups that offer nature programs. Walking? There are even mall walking groups, Singing? Join a choir, Teaching? Consider tutoring young people at an after-school program. Planting or flowers? Consider a local florist, botanical garden, greenhouse. Consider joining a book or cooking club or starting one of your own.
Volunteering is another way to remain engaged in your local community. it is also a way to give back while simultaneously achieving a sense of joy and gratification. A few examples of places to volunteer include: · Libraries . Political parties · Hospitals; Nursing Homes · Animal shelters · Food banks · Day care centers · Places of worship: churches, temples, mosques · Cultural groups · Non-profits organizations
Consider seeking out an organization that is close to your heart. e.g., Diabetes Association, Cancer Agency, Alzheimer’s, AARP. Many websites list volunteer positions and provide training as needed. Opportunities to get involved are endless and many organizations offer info and sign-up forms online.
If one cannot get out as often as they would like or is possible, online activities is another a way to connect with others. This can reduce a feeling of isolation which can be tremendously beneficial. Connecting with family, friends, and online groups help to provide a sense of community. Social networking sites like Facebook help people stay active and engaged. online are other ways that seniors are keeping themselves active and engaged.
8. QUIT SMOKING:
There is ample evidence that smoking increases a person’s risk of decline in physical well-being and cognitive function. The earlier one quits smoking the sooner the risk is reduced to the same level as a person who has not smoked.
9. PROTECT YOUR HEAD, LITERALLY:
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Protect yourself against falls, always wear your seat belt while driving and use a helmet if bicycle riding or participating in a contact sport.
It’s important to keep your brain active. Learn new games or play your favorite ones: jeopardy, bridge, dominoes, backgammon, scrabble, chess, bridge. Work on puzzles: from crossword or jigsaw. Join clubs that highlight these activities. Learn to do something new in which you were always interested: a new language, playing an instrument. There are groups or clubs for many of these which would also keep you socially engaged.
If just beginning to consider these areas, it may be unrealistic to think of adopting all of these habits at once. Pursue those that feel the most likely to be accomplished from an interest, scheduling or availability point of view. Participating in these activities should be enjoyable and fun. If they are effortful and seem like work, it will defeat the purpose. ENJOY!!!!!
*Cognition - Cognition is a mental process which includes thinking, knowing, remembering, reasoning, judging and problem solving.
“Dancing Can Reverse the Signs of Aging in the Brain”. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience August 25, 2017.https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-reverse-aging-brain.html
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