Aging well is a top priority for most older adults who continue to live longer; working, volunteering and remaining active long past retirement age. Many seniors worry that despite remaining physically fit, there may be little they can do to prevent cognitive decline or dementia. But new studies are discovering many ways to help maintain brain health in old age.
March 13-19 marks Brain Awareness Week, a worldwide campaign to help educate the public about research into keeping the brain healthy over an increasingly longer life. The American Association of Retired Persons has invested in research and providing tools to help older adults Stay Sharp by focusing on 5 pillars of brain health: Move, Discover, Relax, Nourish and Connect:
- Research is finding that exercise is one of the best things your can do to retain physical function in older age while helping to keep the brain healthy. Regular moderate exercise may also slow cognitive decline in early stages of dementia.
- Learning a new skill, having new experiences or mastering a new language is also good for brain health. Navigating unfamiliar territory and immersing yourself in new surroundings can enhance the brain, helping to maintain memory better.
- Unplugging once in a while is as important for a healthier brain as keeping mentally active. A 2012 study at UCLA found that 50-year-olds who had practiced meditation over a long period of time has the same amount of gray matter as found in the brain cortex of a 25-year-old.
- Diet and brain health are often linked and although eating foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon as well as whole grains, blueberries, tomatoes, seeds and nuts, studies are finding that intermittent fasting may also help retain better cognitive function in older age.
- Maintaining strong social connections in older age is not only important to ward off depression, research has found that cultivating empathy for others can cause positive changes in the brain’s structure.
To take the AARP brain health assessment and begin your journey towards better brain health, follow this link.