Staying Mentally Alert
June 5, 2020
Growing older does not mean that your mental abilities will necessarily be reduced. There is a lot you can still do to keep your mind sharp and alert. Researchers believe that many of the supposed age-related changes that affect the mind, such as memory loss, are lifestyle related. Just as muscles get flabby from sitting around and doing nothing, so does the brain.
Use it or lose it?
The belief that “exercising” our brains through mentally stimulating activities like puzzles, games and hobbies makes a lot of sense – if we want our brain to stay in peak condition, we should use it.
A marked decline in mental abilities may be due to factors like prescription medications or disease. Older people are more likely to take a range of medications for chronic conditions than younger people. In some cases, a drug or combination of drugs can affect mental abilities.
Certain diseases that are more common to old age, such as Alzheimer’s disease, can also be the underlying cause of declining mental abilities.
Although you cannot control everything that affects your health, keep in mind that many things are withing your hands. There are things you can do to stay healthy that cost next to nothing and can be done alone or with your friends.
Ways to minimise the effects of ageing include healthy eating, staying mentally alert, intellectually curious, and physically active.
Tips for staying mentally alert
- Improve your mental fitness - the research shows that memory loss can be improved by 30 to 50 per cent simply by doing mental exercises. The brain is like a muscle – if you do not give it regular workouts, its functions will decline.
- Read newspapers, magazines, and books
- Cultivate a new hobby
- Keep your social life and engage in plenty of stimulating conversations
- Play “thinking” games like Scrabble or cards
- Do some crossword puzzles and word games
- Hobbies such as woodwork can improve the brain’s spatial awareness
- Play games that challenge the intellect and memory, such as chess
- Keep stress under control with regular relaxation (like mindful ness), since an excess of stress hormones like cortisol can be harmful to neurones
- Watch “question and answer” game shows on television, and play along with the contestants
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet – you probably heard that quite often, but as you get older, you must get smarter about eating better. Dietary requirements can change as your energy needs decrease, while your need for nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals, may stay the same or even increase with age. Some ways to eat better include consuming more fruit and vegetables, lean meat, fish and poultry, some dairy products such as milk or yoghurt, and to reduce fat where possible as well as drinking plenty of water. Make sure your diet contains of vitamin E, B and omega 3-fatty acids. Glucose is the brain’s sole energy source, so eat a balanced diet and avoid extreme low carbohydrate diets. Narrowed arteries can reduce blood flow to the brain, so make sure you eat a low fat, low cholesterol diet.
- Make sure you get enough sleep - waking up feeling refreshed will allow you to use that energy to get out into the daylight and do active things. Sleep is the time that your body repairs and restores itself.
- Do not smoke or drink excessively – both smoke and drinking are putting you at increased risk for dementia, kick the habit if you smoke and, if you drink, do so only in moderation.
- Physical fitness is important – some conditions that can affect the brain’s ability to function, such as stroke, are associated with diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle choices. Keeping an active body is important if you want an active mind. Exercises helps control body weights, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, and strengthens muscles, which will help to avoid injuries by reducing the chances of falling. They are different types of exercises, try to adapt the ones that will fit you the best, they do not have to be strenuous to achieve health benefits. Except walking you can do some balanced exercises in your own home.
- See your doctor regularly – go for your routine check-ups and follow your doctor’s recommendations for screening and preventive measures. Early detection and treatment may prevent health conditions from getting worse. Control cholesterol problems and high blood pressure. These conditions can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke, which are thought to contribute to the development of certain types of dementia.
- Socialize more – making new friends or spending time with the ones you have might be good for your brain.
As you get older, keeping your mind active and healthy can become a big challenge. Your mental abilities generally decrease with age, particularly if your brain is not stimulated much. If your mind is not healthy and active in later life, you can have an increased chance of developing dementia (otherwise known as Alzheimer’s Disease).
“You can’t turn back the clock but you can wind it up again”
by Alicja CabelBACK TO NEWS