Why Brain Health Declines as We Age (and How to Prevent it)
Maintaining good brain health is important at any age. However, it becomes especially critical as we age because cognitive function can start to decline. But you can be proactive about maintaining your brain’s optimal functionality. Here’s why our brain health declines as we age, and how you can prevent it.
What is Brain Health?
Brain health is the term used to refer to a person’s brain function, and encompasses four general areas: one’s cognitive health, motor functions, emotional functions and tactile function.
Brain health is becoming a central focus for many medical institutions and organizations. For example, the University of Texas at Dallas has a Center for Brain Health that pioneers brain research. This includes studies on mental clarity — the “ability to reason in complex situations,” fortitude — the “capacity to remain emotionally balanced” and resilience — the “capacity to socially connect and live a purposeful life.”
Thanks to this research, we now know more about how a healthy brain functions through every stage of an individual’s life.
Impact of Aging on Brain Health
Over the years, our bodies will experience many changes. The brain is no exception. Here are some common changes the brain may undergo as we age:
- Reduced brain mass. The frontal lobe and hippocampus can start shrinking significantly after age 30. This change in mass negatively affects one’s reasoning, judgment and social skills.
- Shifting synaptic connections. Consider your brain’s synapses like a telephone line to the rest of the neurons in your body. When you have a thought to move your leg, your brain’s synapses will tell the leg’s neuron’s to move, which results in the physical movement of your leg. As we age, this connection can weaken, which can affect cognitive and motor function.
- Decreased chemical activity. The brain generates fewer chemical messages with age, leading to decreased serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine in the body. Lower levels of these chemicals may result in a higher likelihood of depression as well as a decline in memory and cognitive abilities.
How to Improve Brain Health
The good news is that research shows there are ways to keep your brain sharp. There are many people in their 80s whose brains are cognitively operating at an age decades younger than their physical age.
Here are a few ways you can proactively maintain or even improve your brain’s health.
- Upgrade your diet. Following a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes plant-based foods, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and poultry can give your brain the nutrients it needs to function at an optimal level.
- Get active. Being physically active brings more blood flow to your brain, which helps it operate more effectively. The Mayo clinic reports, “people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
- Stay mentally active. Just like you need to physically exercise, you also need to mentally exercise. Read books or do crossword and jigsaw puzzles to challenge your brain.
- Be social. Being socially active and engaged can do wonders for your emotional well-being and your brain health Many studies show that maintaining friendships later in life can be vital to you overall.
Stay Mentally Engaged at Claridge Court
At Claridge Court, we create mentally engaging and vibrant lifestyles for our residents. In our community it’s easy to eat healthy, with access to freshly prepared meals, signature smoothies and in-season menus. We’re renowned for providing residents with the ideal retirement they can’t find anywhere else. Contact us to learn more about the Claridge Court lifestyle.