5 Ways to Maintain Healthy Cognitive Ability as You Age
You want to stay sharp as you get older, we get it. Everyone hopes to age gracefully and enjoy their golden years full of new experiences and good memories. But as you know, this doesn’t always happen. Some people, as they grow in years, lose mental clarity and ability. Often this happens so gradually that it’s like watching hair grow—a loss of cognitive ability isn’t even noticed until it’s too late to do much about it.
But don’t worry, there is plenty of good news.
There are scientific, practical ways to help you maintain optimal brain health as you get older. As a health and industry leader in cognitive and physical performance, Aviv Clinics provides valuable, research-backed information to help you control your cognitive ability long into your twilight years.
5 Categories of Cognitive Skills You Want to Maintain
When we talk about cognitive ability, what we’re referring to is a set of seven skills that work together to help you in your daily life:
- Short-term memory
- Long-term memory
- Attention—sustained, selective, and divided
- Processing speed, including visual and auditory
- Logic and reasoning
Our brains can do brilliant and beautiful things! We simply need to nurture their natural abilities, so we can slow (or prevent) mental decline.
How to Improve Cognition – Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Knowing how to improve cognitive skills is the first step toward achieving your goal of staying sharp and full of life for many years to come.
First, are you at risk of cognitive decline as you age?
- Do you have depression?
- Are you lacking sufficient mental activity?
- Are you avoiding physical exercise?
- Would your doctor consider you obese?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Have you been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes?
- Are you a smoker?
To significantly lower your risk of cognitive decline, follow your doctor’s orders and incorporate these five must-have lifestyle adjustments to enhance your cognitive ability.
1. Sink Your Teeth into a Delicious Mediterranean Diet
Good nutrition goes a long way in maintaining a healthy brain and body. Studies show an association between high adherence to a Mediterranean diet and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A Mediterranean diet entails:
Eating plenty of:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Fish and seafood
- Nuts and legumes
- Whole grains
- Unsaturated oils (extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil)
Eating in moderation:
- Red meat
- Refined grains
- Added sugar
- Highly processed foods
Read MIND Your Diet for Better Brain Health for some very interesting and informative guidance from an AVIV dietician, Kathryn Parker, RD, LD/N.
2. Increase Brain Metabolism through the Heart, Muscles, and Mind
Research links moderate exercise to increased brain metabolism and improved overall cognition. Exercise need not be too strenuous, but getting the heart rate up, building muscle, and pumping oxygen through your lungs and blood is very beneficial to your mental health. Physical activity can also improve heart conditions (one of the sources of cognitive decline).
Great examples of moderate physical activity include:
- Jogging or brisk walking, especially up an incline or in the sand
- Stretching morning and night
- Gardening and other household tasks
- Cycling either on a stationary bike or along a path
- Tai chi and yoga
- Playing outside with your children or grandchildren
If you’re an athlete who wants to up your game, Aviv will help you achieve your physical goals. Watch the stories of success.
3. Don’t Let Stress Induce Deleterious Effects
If not managed, chronic stress often impairs memory retrieval and information acquisition, even inducing deleterious effects on brain structure and cognition. To help you bounce back from a stressful situation, consider:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Writing your thoughts in a journal
- Getting more sleep—it’s in the downtime that the brain flushes toxins out and cleans itself, allowing the repair you need from spikes of stress
- Doing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises
Learn about the stress response, how it affects the brain, and why it can be a good thing when managed properly.
4. Actively Build Neural Pathways
Identify hobbies or activities that keep your mind engaged. For example, one study discovered older adults who took up new body-connected activities that worked the brain in new ways experienced more memory improvement than those who did not.
Here are a few ideas when wondering how to improve your cognitive skills:
- Learn a new language and travel to where you can use it.
- Begin quilting or other detail-oriented crafts.
- Study photography, take pictures, edit them, and share.
- Try reflective therapy, like journaling, to revisit past negative memories and rewrite them more positively (“what I’ve learned” or “how it made me grow”).
- Invest (especially mentally and physically) into your child’s or grandchild’s hobby. Do they play lacrosse? Learn the rules of play and volunteer for the team. Do they have a knack for mathematics? Be their study buddy.
Here’s how to improve cognitive ability by having fun and building brain power with novelty and challenge.
5. Stay in Touch with Your Trusted Physician
It’s essential to discuss cognitive decline with a trusted physician. The more you understand how your health can affect your brain function, the more you can do to safeguard your cognitive vitality. Discuss your options and advocate for yourself to get next-level care that will keep you healthier for the long term.
Fight Cognitive Decline with Aviv
Maintaining your overall health is beneficial for the longevity of your life. Fight cognitive decline with the Aviv Medical Program. Every person’s body and health are unique, and your medical treatment program should reflect that.
Aviv is the leader in brain performance—our program will keep your brain at its best. Our diverse team of medical professionals will provide the customized attention you need to maintain optimal cognitive health and reverse cognitive decline.
Contact us to learn how we can help.