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As advances are made in the world of medicine, people are living longer lives. Longer life, however, does not always equate to a better quality of life. Quality of life is very important. What can senior adults do to improve their quality of life and get more life out of their later years? Obviously taking care of themselves is key. Many people focus on caring for their physical health which is very important to good quality of life, but taking care of cognitive health is also very important.
What is cognitive health?
Cognitive health can generally be thought of as keeping the mind sharp or having a healthy brain. It includes the ability to think, learn, and remember. Cognitive health affects the motor skills of senior adults, both fine motor and gross motor. Cognitive health affects emotional health and sensory processing in elder adults.
What affects cognitive health in senior adults?
The cognitive health of senior adults can be affected by many factors. One factor that is beyond control is just simply the aging process. Aging commonly has some effects on the ability of senior adults to remember or recall information and may mildly affect the ability to multitask. Another factor that affects the health of the brain is having a disease. Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and strokes negatively impact the function of the brain. Depression, which is common in senior adults, can lead to poor cognitive health. Medications and combinations of medications can cause confusion, hallucinations, and even memory loss in senior adults. It is important to discuss these effects with your physician. In addition to health, lifestyle can negatively impact cognitive health. For example, alcohol use can affect cognitive function. Poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and sleep problems can also lead to poor cognitive functioning. Lack of social activity and stimulation can detrimentally affect the brain’s function in senior adults.
How can senior adults improve cognitive health?
Believe it or not, there are many things that seniors can do to improve or maintain cognitive health. Keeping the body healthy is one major way that elders can improve cognitive health. Just like with physical health, senior adults need to eat a healthy diet. Many foods provide vitamins and nutrients needed for healthy brain function.
Another key component to maintaining cognitive health is being active. Being active helps improve blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain. This can also help decrease sleep problems. Staying connected to other people also helps the brain function. Conversation and meaningful interaction with others stimulate the mind. Hobbies, volunteering, and learning new skills can serve a dual purpose. These activities engage the brain while also providing opportunities for senior adults to be connected to others.
Finally, senior adults must find as many ways as possible to keep the mind active. Activities like hobbies and learning new skills keep the mind active, but there are many others. Exercising the memory can be a great way to stay cognitively healthy. There are plenty of games and apps available that seniors can use to exercise memory. Playing games exercise the brain. Many games not only exercise the memory but also other parts of cognition like decision making and using strategy. A fast-paced game can help seniors maintain and improve the ability to think quickly. Reading is another excellent activity for improving cognitive health. Whether it is reading for enjoyment or reading to learn something new, reading helps the mind stay healthy no matter the age of the person.
Getting enough rest is also key to good cognitive health. The basic recommendation is that most adults, including senior adults, get six to seven hours of sleep each night. This may be difficult at first and may mean cutting out naps during the day, but it is vital to maintain cognitive and physical health.
The bottom line is cognitive health needs just as much attention as physical health. If seniors wish to maintain their quality of life into their later years, they must pay attention to cognitive health and seek ways of keeping their brain healthy and active. The bonus is that most of what you can do to improve cognitive health can also improve physical health. It’s a two for one deal!
If you live in the Chicagoland area and would like to discuss your or a loved one’s plans, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to schedule a consultation by calling us at (312) 641-9500, or by clicking here.