4 Ways Seniors Can Stay Mentally Sharp While Aging
Staying mentally sharp is a goal most seniors have. We all want to stay as independent as possible for as long as we can. However, while time is an enemy that works against us (and something we have no control over), there are certain things we can do to keep our mental facilities and ultimately our independence for as long as possible, including:
• Exercising Regularly
• Eating Healthy
• Playing Mind Games
• Quitting Smoking
Study after study all come to the same conclusion – exercising slows down the aging process both in the body and mind. According to a report published by the Annals of Medicine in 2015, exercising lowers the risk of developing dementia. The reason believed is that exercising increases blood flow to the brain resulting in better cognitive functioning.
Researchers think cognitive decline might be due to a diet high in saturated fat. But by eating a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain, low-fat dairy and fish high in unsaturated fat and Omega 3, it seems to slow down its progression.
Eating healthy and exercising regularly is the one-two punch to keep you mentally sharp and physically in shape … regardless of your age. Everyone can do something as far as exercising.
Playing Mind Games
Where exercising works the body physically (and mentally), playing games makes you think and stimulates your brain, thus preventing the onset of dementia. Learning new skills, playing card and board games, and keeping socially active all work the mind to keep it sharp.
If you have always wanted to learn how to paint or make pottery, join a class. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you’ll also make new friends. Yoga is also another form of exercise that is not only good for the body, but also the mind. With meditation being one of the components of yoga, the mind comes into play as well as the body during every workout.
Smoking is linked to waning cognitive activity, due to its damaging effect on the cardiovascular system, which means reduced blood flow to the brain. If the brain cells can’t get the amount of oxygen they need, they soon die off. Over time, brain cells die off naturally anyway, but smoking quickens up the process so you lose cognitive ability sooner than you would have otherwise.
While the natural aging process takes its toll on us mentally, you can preserve your mind as long as possible with the four tips in this article.
5 Mental Benefits for Staying Active As You Age
People who exercise and stay active feel better, regardless of their age. Exercising regularly not only improves the body, but also the mind.
When the body feels excessive stress, it goes into a “fight or flight” response which releases cortisol into your bloodstream to help deal with your body’s response. However when you experience frequent high stress, too much cortisol in your body over time can bring on weight gain, hypertension, and headaches and even increases your risk for certain diseases.
However exercising reduces the effects of stress and makes you feel better by releasing endorphins that serve to counteract the cortisol, thus improving your mood and giving you that post-workout euphoric “high”.
Prevent Cognitive Decline
As we age our brain starts to shrink, especially the hippocampus area which is where memory and learning takes place. But exercising actually slows down cognitive loss by increasing production of new brain cells to help offset the ones naturally dying off. While the greatest benefit is reaped by exercising between the ages of 25 and 45, exercising at any age is beneficial.
Excessive stress can cause us to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking and abusing alcohol or prescription drugs to help reduce the effects of stress. However, while usually meant to be “experimental” and temporary, their use can quickly turn into an addiction. Depending on what you are addicted to can have serious health consequences. As noted above, exercising reduces stress and therefore decreases your risk of an abuse turning into an addiction.
We know exercising boosts brain activity. Studies show that exercising can raise your creative ability for up to two hours after working out. You could use that post exercise period to draw, paint, photograph or otherwise exercise your creative spirit.
By exercising not only will you look better with toned muscles, but you will feel better too. Regardless of weight, gender, age or physical fitness level, exercising lifts your self-esteem and makes you feel good about yourself. And if you have a positive self-image, your radiance will exude to those around you making them feel better about themselves also.
Cardio and strength training are two types of exercises to slow down the aging process, but don’t overlook yoga too. Yoga is a favorite among seniors because it is low impact, so it is easy on the joints. It also increases flexibility and improves balance, thus reducing your risk of falling and breaking a bone.
Many seniors overlook the mental benefits derived from physical exercise. Not only will working out improve your looks and how you feel about yourself, but it will keep your mind sharp too.