Can Lifestyle Choices Protect Against Cognitive Decline?

happy asian old couple jogging running outdoors in park

Advancing age is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline or impairment. Some signs of decline include forgetfulness, losing your train of thought, missing appointments or events, difficulty following a conversation, difficulty finishing a task or making a decision, and getting lost in familiar areas. Some mild decline is expected with aging and may not be serious enough to impact daily life. It may remain stable for a long time.

While nothing can totally prevent mild cognitive decline, research has shown that some lifestyle choices may lower the risk. These general recommendations include the following: stay physically active, eat a healthy diet, engage in social activities, get adequate sleep, and exercise the brain.

Stay Physically Active

Maintaining or improving fitness levels in older adults may help protect the brain. Aerobic exercise, in particular, keeps blood flowing in the brain, but even light physical activity can help. Small lifestyle changes such as doing your own housework, running errands, or a walk around the block are good choices. Getting 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily is a general goal. However, older adults should talk to their healthcare provider about what may be appropriate for them.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Shot of a happy older couple enjoying a healthy lunch together outdoors

According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy diet may help preserve cognition function. A diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil appears to have positive effects on brain health. This type of balanced diet also contributes to better heart health and can help in the management of chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Engage in Social Activities

Studies have shown that social engagement is associated with better cognitive function. Social isolation has been associated with depression and cognitive decline. Ways to stay engaged with other people include getting together with friends, attending a worship service, joining a club, volunteering, and taking a class.

Get Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital for cognitive performance. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep impairs attention, memory, and decision making skills. Tips for enjoying a better night’s sleep include maintaining a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up, avoiding caffeine late in the day, and avoiding late afternoon naps. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, which may include taking a warm bath, listening to music, or reading.

Exercise the Brain

grandpa and grandson are doing puzzle and exercising the brain while spending time together at home

Keeping the brain active and challenged may delay cognitive impairment. Playing games, reading, learning a new activity, playing an instrument, and doing puzzles are good brain exercises. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and online video or memory games keep the brain engaged.

Renaissance Villages Lifestyle

Renaissance Villages offers residents opportunities to stay active and engaged. Our Geri-Fit Program gives residents the resources to maintain their fitness. Residents enjoy eating healthy, chef-prepared meals served restaurant style in our dining room. We offer daily events and activities that engage residents mentally, physically, and socially.  Contact us today to schedule a tour of our residential offerings.

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