Tackling Cognitive Decline Head On
We’re all keenly aware of the physical changes in our bodies as time passes. It’s obvious from the outside that we’re always in the process of growing and aging. What’s not so apparent, though, is that our brain is doing the exact same thing! You may not realize it, but your brain is constantly in a state of flux, and it goes through distinct phases as you get older. Here is a look at how your brain evolves through the various stages of life:
Your Brain in Your 20’s-30’s
By the time you reach 25 years old, you will have reached peak physical health, motor condition, and physiological performance. You’re in the prime of your life, and so is your brain. During this time as your career develops, your energy is high and you are socially active. It is a time of great intellectual stimulation, and your creativity is also at its peak.
As you continue to climb toward 40, however, you may start to notice some small changes in the way your brain functions. For example, you may find that you don’t retain information quite as well as you used to. This may be more noticeable during times when you feel fatigued. In the midst of competing demands, finding balance between responsibilities will become increasingly important.
A Snapshot of Your Brain Between Your 40’s-60’s
As we move forward into middle age and beyond, we might start seeing decline in certain mental capabilities. In our 50’s, these may become more pronounced or obvious. These changes may include aspects of memory, executive function, processing speed, reasoning, and multi-tasking. This period of life is also demanding (albeit in a different way), and you may begin to notice that it takes longer to learn or assimilate new information. However, once you do get it down, you might remember more clearly and with greater accuracy. Interestingly enough, this is also the period of life when you’re most able to read others’ emotional states. You may find that you are actually more socially intelligent and attuned than when you were younger.
Your Brain in Your 60’s and Above
Research shows that certain tasks, like learning new words, can continue to develop well into our 60’s and early 70’s. Referred to as “crystallized intelligence,” our ability to accumulate new facts and knowledge peaks later in life than you might have thought.
Our knowledge, reasoning, creativity and problem solving can remain strong in our 60s, yet it is also true that physical changes from aging can affect the way we think. This can cause us to worry at times. As changes in memory and attention become more noticeable, you may find yourself less adept at multi-tasking than you used to be.
At this time in life it becomes natural to begin embracing a slower pace. It’s especially important, then, to keep engaged in activities that are intellectually stimulating and to remain socially active. Taking these measures will be critical factors to maintaining a happy, healthy brain.
Helping Ensure That Your Brain Ages Healthily
No matter what stage of life you find yourself in, there are powerful measures that you can take to maintain your cognitive health. Here is a quick list of ideas that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help optimize your mental performance and protect your brain as you age.
Exercise and Weight Management — One of the number one things that will benefit you at any point in life, exercise can have numerous benefits for the brain. A long-term exercise routine could have a major impact on our focus and attention. It may also positively impact the physical structures in the brain, and in so doing affect our mood. (To read more about this, click here.)
Restorative Sleep — Getting a good night’s sleep is a major element in brain function, and without it our cognitive function can suffer. If you struggle with rest, then it may be time to take proactive measures to ensure that you get not only enough sleep, but good quality sleep.
Eat Foods That Support Brain Health — It turns out that the food we eat can have an enormous impact not only on how we feel, but how our brain functions. Take time to educate yourself about ‘brain foods,’ and learn how to incorporate them into your diet.
Social Support — One of the most overlooked factors in brain health, having strong relationships and social networks is critical to maintaining your brain health as you age. According to Harvard Health, lack of social ties may be associated with mood imbalances and cognitive issues as we age.
Brain Games and Exercises — If you’re not really into games, then it may be time to tap into your inner child. Certain types of mental activities have been linked to brain health, and gaming is one of them. Not only are classic brain games like Sudoku helpful, certain types of video games may also boost cognitive function, according to several studies. Whatever you do, challenge yourself to learn something new. Activities that require learning new information can actually stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
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