Maintaining a Healthy Mind as a Senior

If you have concerns about maintaining a healthy mind as a senior, you are not alone.

Many people fear developing memory problems with age. Sometimes, the memory and cognition issues you may develop when you get older can be mild. For example, you may occasionally misplace objects. According to the National Institute on Aging, such problems are normal. However, you also stand a chance of developing a medical condition that could lead to permanent memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Although there is no way to guarantee prevention of such medical issues, there are steps you can take that may help your mind stay healthy. Like your body, your brain must be exercised and properly cared for to stay in top condition. By taking steps to keep it active, you may stave off some of the natural forgetfulness age can cause. Below are some tips for maintaining a healthy mind as a senior.

Stay Organized and Limit Distractions

As you get older, it will naturally become more difficult to retain information. At the same time, small issues like misplacing your car keys may become more frustrating than they used to be. Staying organized and limiting the distractions around you can help you reduce such problems. One way to stay organized is to make sure important objects in your home, such as your keys or wallet, are always in the same place. You can also use tools like calendars, notebooks or day planners to write information down.

It may seem counterproductive to rely on making notes for yourself, if your goal is to maintain a healthy mind. Memorization may seem more important. However, writing down important information can force your brain to work harder to remember it it. In fact, a study found students who took notes by hand performed better in their courses than students who did not. Although you may no longer be engaging in school activities, as a senior you can reap similar benefits from note taking. That is because your brain processes information in many different ways. Therefore, the more ways you can input the information, the more likely it is to be retained. Forms of input include:

  • Reading.
  • Writing.
  • Speaking.

Making notes or to-do lists will force you to read and write the information. You can also choose to list each item verbally as you write it. By using all three of those informational input methods, you can make the information easier to remember. You will also reap side benefits of written organization, such as being able to adjust your to-do list easily when plans change.

Participate in Mentally Challenging Activities

One reason your mind may become less sharp with age is you may not be stimulating it enough. As a human being, you are probably a creature of habit. Some habits are good but getting into a routine that is too predictable can be boring. It can also reduce your brain function.

To fight back against boredom and maintain a healthy mind, work new experiences into your routine. This includes physical activities, brain stimulations and daily routines. Activities as simple as eating foods you would not normally eat can influence different parts of your brain. Reading more or doing crossword puzzles or other brain teasers can also keep your mind sharp. In fact, you can even download special apps for your phone to allow you to do brain teaser puzzles from any location. If those options do not appeal to you, there are many other mentally challenging activities from which you can pick. Some of them include:

  • Dining out with friends.
  • Playing cards or other games.
  • Taking dance lessons.

Use Common Memory Tricks to Retain Information

Another way to maintain a healthy mind and improve your memory is to learn tricks for information retention. One such trick involves grouping information in specific ways. You are almost definitely already using this trick without realizing it, if you have any phone number memorized. Phone numbers consist of large strings of digits, but they are broken up into smaller three and four-number groups to make them easier to memorize or recite. Using this technique to help you memorize other information can be equally helpful.

Another option is to use mental imagery to remember certain data, such as the names of people you meet. For example, if you meet a woman named Rose, you can associate her with a mental image of a rose flower. Not every person you meet will be easy to associate with a mental image. However, once you come up with good images, their names will be easier to remember. You can also use a variety of other mnemonic devices to remember information, such as:

  • Making up a rhyme or song about someone you meet or something you must do.
  • Using an acronym to remember something important, such as a grocery list.
  • Visualizing images in your head to represent your plans, goals or people you meet.

Avoid Habits That Are Unhealthy for Your Brain

Maintaining a healthy mind will also require you to evaluate your life choices and avoid unhealthy habits. For example, according to the National Institute on Aging, drinking alcohol in excess can cause memory loss. The memory loss may occur because alcohol will slow down the procedure your brain cells use to communicate with each other. As a senior, you may also suffer from additional and equally dangerous side effects if you drink too much alcohol. Some of them include:

  • Medication interactions, which can be life-threatening.
  • Dizziness, balance problems and drowsiness, which can all increase your chances of falling.
  • Difficulty maintaining your normal body temperature.

Another unhealthy habit that can cause mental deterioration as you age is smoking. Study results published by the Molecular Psychiatry journal in 2015 found smoking can thin your cortex. The cortex is a multitasking part of your brain responsible for such activities as processing:

  • Perceptions.
  • Memories.
  • Language.

According to researchers, your cortex will naturally become thinner as you get older. However, smoking will speed up the process. The study indicated you can regain some cortex thickness by quitting smoking. However, that process will take time and will never fully restore your cortical thickness. Separate studies have also found smoking can prevent your brain from receiving enough oxygen, making cognitive processes like memorization of names more difficult. Therefore, quitting smoking as quickly as possible is the best way to prevent further damage and slow the onset of cognition problems.

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