Growing old is an inevitable part of life. While most of us occasionally misplace the car key, the cell phone or the TV remote, the likelihood of these mishaps happening more frequently tend to be proportional with our age. Aches and pains aside, diminishing cognitive function is one thing most of us are terrified about. Yes, we are talking about dementia.
How does dementia set in? Our brain is full of nerve cells and connections. The older we get, the smaller our brains becomes, costing us precious memories and cognitive sharpness. Dementia can also occur due to a variety of other reasons such as Alzheimer’s disease, head trauma, etc. But what if we told you that there are ways to stay on top of your game even when you are an octogenarian?
Neurologist Marsel Mesulam coined the term ‘superager’ referring to those who are over 80 years of age but can function cognitively like a 50-year-old. While your genetic makeup is certainly a deciding factor here, there are things that you can do to ensure that you stay alert and sharp even as you grow old. Read on to find out:
Feed your brain:While a Mediterranean diet is often linked to reduced cognitive decline, you don’t necessarily have to start eating hummus or couscous. Include plenty of vegetables, proteins and legumes, fatty fish, walnuts and olive oil in your diet.
Keep learning: While aging breaks the connections between neurons, learning new things create new connections. Studies have shown that early onset of dementia is more common among the illiterate masses. Intellectually inclined people have better memory and cognitive abilities. Learn a new skill, learn a new language, or learn how to play a new instrument to keep your brain in top shape.
Stimulate your brain: How healthy your brain is also depends on how much stimulation it has received over the years. Challenge yourself to crossword puzzles and math problems to keep stimulating your brain. A Sudoku puzzle a day might actually keep the doctor away in this case.
Don’t smoke or drink: Researchers found that both smoking and drinking contribute to significant shrinking of the areas of the brain associated with memory. The more you smoke or drink, the higher your risks of developing dementia.
Give your senses a good workout: Most of us have memories from our past where we don’t remember the actual details from a day, but we would distinctly remember either the taste of something we ate or the specific aroma of something. This is because our brain is better at retaining memories where our senses, other than seeing and hearing, are involved. Consider taking a break every now and then from the humdrum of city life and escaping to the woods. While you are there, savor the fresh, invigorating fragrance of the leaves and the forest floor, run your hands along the barks of trees, or even splash some water on your hiking partner from a stream. These activities stimulate your sensory organs, thereby bettering your odds against developing dementia.
The proverb goes: “Prevention is always better than cure.” Incorporate the above practices into your routine and you will improve your chances of staying sharp even in your twilight years.