Mild cognitive decline occurs in 10% to 20% of the world population over the age of 70. On average, about 10% of these seniors will progress to develop dementia each year. The majority of these seniors will be placed on popular drugs such as donepezil, designed to inhibit cholinesterase, helping brain chemicals to activate neural circuits that are involved in keeping cognition as active as possible.
According to an article in Time Magazine, a piece published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has gone so far as to suggest that brain exercises could offer better protection against mental decline in seniors than their powerful pharmaceutical counterparts. This news is giving new hope to elderly patients and their families.
From involving physical exercise in daily routines to activities that exercise the brain itself, here are 7 ways that you or the senior that you love can help to prevent and protect against mental decline, even helping to stay on a more even course with current decline already present…
Actively pursue fitness. Work exercise into your weekly routine.
In a meta-analysis, experts examined the impact of fitness on mental decline across 18 clinical trials. After looking at both the type of exercise, the time completed and the duration of that exercise was carried on into the long term, the best outcomes came from a combination of aerobic movements, weight lifting and an increase into more intensive training.
Invest in a crossword or Sudoku collection. Implement them daily.
A study out of Tohoku University in Japan revealed that the elderly could improve mental decline by actively initiating thinking and organizational portions of their brains on a regular basis… at least, in the short-term. Activities that fall into these categories include brain games like crosswords and Sudoku that can be played at home both in print or online.
Enroll in computer-based training.
There are plenty of programs out there that can help you to not only become more efficient with technology but also help to support a healthy brain. From simple programs like Word and Excel to more advanced lessons like coding and Photoshop, gaining new skills creates new pathways in the brain… and makes using your devices much more fun in the long run. Remember, it is not how quickly you learn, but the process of learning that changes your brain health for the better.
Try Brain Age.
Brain Age has been touted by countless publications as one of the best available tools for working your brain’s functions across the board. While a paid membership can give you access to the full site, the company also offers trials and free memberships which offer a limited amount of games, but games nonetheless. These brain-teasers are challenging and addictive, making them easy to want to come back to daily.
Get and stay social.
It can be difficult to stay social when you are home-bound. However, today’s online options and public transportation make being social easier than ever before. Facebook and Skype can help you to connect in real-time to old friends and family. In fact, science has shown that being social may help to prevent many forms of health problems from dementia to depression and even high blood pressure and heart complications. Even if you cannot leave the house, there are always ways to connect and people to connect with.
Be creative. Paint a picture, write a story or play a tune.
Painting, writing and musical inclinations all have a big impact on the brain. From simple tasks like doodling and journaling to more in-depth actions like art or music classes and writing retreats, the arts are a great way to not only boost your brain health but also your spirit. When brain exercises are fun and enjoyable, you will be more likely to perform them on a regular basis and see results.
Bio-feedback is the body’s amazing ability to regulate itself using the functions of the brain. Specialized computer programs and tools teach you how to lower your heart rate, ease physical pain and even bring down anxiety levels from the inside-out. These programs, much like Jedi mind tricks, teach you to move objects on screens (while hooked up to specialized sensors) all with your brain power. Though not inexpensive, these programs have the potential to assist in mental decline and health concerns where pain medications cannot be utilized. There are also licensed medical staff who can teach you these programs from their office.
Mental decline is on the rise as the population ages, however, what this means for seniors does not have to be negative. Daily, science is making great strides in the fight against dementia and there is hope on the horizon ahead. When you utilize activities and follow your doctor’s advice, you can live your best, happiest and healthiest life.