Have you ever experienced a loved one who was going through cognitive impairment? It does not always look the same from person to person, but it is something that nobody wants to go through. Cognitive decline can occur quickly or gradually, and it doesn't only affect the elderly. Younger people can also experience issues with the state of their brain with certain conditions or health habits.
However, it is far more common in older populations, and many of us who have elderly relatives have seen its effects on our family members. It can be nerve-wracking to witness and extremely frustrating to go through yourself.
There are many ways to give your body the best chance at fighting off the effects of cognitive decline, and starting with these habits today will increase the likelihood of maintaining your mental health as you age.
Cut alcohol and substance use out of your life
Consuming vast amounts of alcohol or certain substances is often a determining factor in the health of the brain. While you may not experience some of these effects for years while engaging in these activities, your body will be paying for it later. Wherever possible, moderate your consumption of alcohol and other drugs to give your mind a better chance at long-term health.
An active lifestyle improves your blood flow which will increase the number of nutrients that are getting to your brain. Regular exercise programs can help heal cognitive impairment for those who have already experienced some of these challenges. It follows, therefore, that increasing your physical activity earlier in life will put off cognitive decline for longer. There are plenty of other health benefits as well, including more effective immune responses to foreign agents, many of which could cause accelerated memory loss.
Change up your diet
Fruits and vegetables are a necessity for a balanced diet in general, but they also contribute to mental health as well. Additionally, nuts, seeds, and beans are great sources of nutrients that will help maintain the well-being of your brain. Certain conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's have a lower chance of beating your body's defenses when you have the right diet, and these conditions become more common as you age.
Regular sleep patterns
Sleep plays a huge role in the condition of the brain. Following a consistent routine will help your body get the most out of this recovery period. If you find that you are waking up often in the middle of the night for various reasons, it may be wise to consult a doctor and consider medication to help you get more hours in a row. A healthy brain means that you are more likely to maintain independence as you age. While moving into a nursing home may be an option for many, there are risks associated with that process, and prioritizing your brain's health with better sleeping patterns will give you a better chance of staying independent.
Engage in social activities
As humans, we are designed to seek out connections with others. The more we can socialize, the more likely our mental health will remain strong. See if you can join a group that regularly engages in recreational activities or gets involved in the community. The brain is like a muscle in that the more you use certain parts of it, the stronger it will be, and socialization is a key aspect of long-term mental health.
Apply your mind to learning
A strong defense against cognitive impairment is a commitment to learning. No matter what age you are, learning new skills and pushing your mind toward discovery can keep more of its functions active, improving your chances of fighting off decline. Whether you take a course to learn something new or just engage your mind through reading, increasing your level of knowledge can be an effective method for your mental state.
Keep your ears cleaned
Here is something you probably know already; a buildup of earwax can lead to hearing loss. That makes sense, right? But here is something that you may not know; a buildup of earwax can also lead to memory loss. Not cleaning out your ears thoroughly could lead to cognitive decline in some extreme cases, especially if you are a user of q-tips, which just pack the earwax deeper into your ear canal. Get your ears cleaned out well, especially if you are older, to assist in maintaining your mental capabilities.
Caring about your brain starts yesterday
Hopefully, you have already engaged in some of these methods to protect the health of your brain. But if you are missing some of these habits, it is time to pick them up. Cognitive decline happens to many older adults, but younger individuals can be affected too. Drop the substances, get active, eat a nutritious diet, catch up on sleep, continue socializing, learn new things, and clean out those ears to keep your brain healthy and active.