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Learning to keep Cognitive Decline at Bay

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, as you age, your brain remains capable of adapting to stimuli. Although declines occur in certain cognitive functions, other cognitive functions increase with age and can compensate for the functions that may decline. Researchers found that people who age with greater stores of knowledge may show increased adaptation. Vocabulary also tends to improve with age. Certain activities can assist older adults in increasing their capacity to learn and adapt as they age.

Changes in cognitive function, such as slow speed of information processing, are common in normal aging. However, there is considerable variation among individuals, and cognitive decline is not inevitable.

Essential Tips to Prevent Cognitive Decline:

  1. Keep your Mind motivated and your brain active in any field that makes you constantly learn: reading, problem solving, brain fitness exercises, learning a language, playing an instrument or a memory game. Brain teasers and strategy games provide great mental exercise and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Look for activities that use both sides of your brain…logic and language versus artistic and creative challenges.  Keep a Who, What, Where, When, and Why list of your daily experiences. Capturing visual details keeps your neurons firing.
  1. Work your brain with movement. You can train your brain with movement in several ways:
    • From left to right.
    • From Front to back.
    • From your sixth sense (proprioception).
    • From constant learning of new movements.
    • Movement mastery.
    • Practice cardiovascular activity daily. Cardiovascular activity enhances a powerful protein between nerve cells that helps us get smarter and fitter.
      In a 2009 review of literature from the International Journal of Clinical Practice, scientists documented that over time, physical activity effectively reduces the probability of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Exercise at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes five times per week. Just five workouts every seven days can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 35%. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they maintain cognitive health. Combining aerobics and strength work is better than either activity alone. Add 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine, and your risk of Alzheimer’s is cut in half if you are over 65. Mental stimulation is not limited to formal education and can include everyday activities such as:
    • Reading books, newspapers, or magazines.
    • Playing games such as:
      • Cards
      • Checkers
      • Crosswords, or other puzzles
  1. 2.Eating can influence your brain in a powerful way. Foods with high antioxidants, low fats, low sugars (apples, yogurt, berries salmon, walnuts, strawberries). Eat several small meals throughout the day. Avoid packaged, refined, and processed foods, especially those high in sugars and white flour, which rapidly spike glucose levels and inflame your brain. In Freedom from Disease, Alzheimer’s is described as “diabetes of the brain,” and a growing body of information suggests a strong link between metabolic disorders and the signal processing systems. Emphasize fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum to maximize protective anti-oxidants and vitamins. Daily servings of berries and green leafy vegetables should be part of a plant-centered, brain protective regimen. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and fish oils are believed to preserve and improve memory.
  2. Keep yourself socially active and make sure you are surrounded by great friends: you can join a book club, walking club or a gym. We are social creatures, and the most connected fare better on tests of memory and cognition. Developing a strong support system through family, friends, exercise groups, clubs, and volunteer activities improves mood and slows cognitive decline. Working at a paid or volunteer job may help prevent cognitive decline in a similar manner. Complex intellectual work has been found to increase the cognitive function of older workers. Work also provides an opportunity for social interactions and developing a sense of personal mastery, both of which may be important in maintaining the vitality of the brain.
  3. Practice daily meditation to make sure you achieve a powerful , calmer Mind and a more focused brain. The harmful stress hormone cortisol hampers nerve cell growth and connection and accelerates cognitive decline, premature aging, depression, diabetes, and other assaults on your brain. Turn off your stress response with quiet, deep, abdominal breathing. From momentary inhale, hold, and exhale sequences to guided group exercises, restorative breathing is powerful, simple, and free! Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
  4. Avoid toxins – Among the most preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are smoking and heavy drinking. Not only does smoking increase the odds for those over 65 by nearly 79%, researchers at Miami’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center warn that a combination of these two behaviors reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years. If you stop smoking at age, the brain benefits from improved circulation almost immediately. Brain changes from alcohol abuse can only be reversed early. UCLA’s Memory Center Director Gary Small warns that lead, pesticides, mold, and other substances in your environment may damage your brain. Studies on the impact of electromagnetic energy from cell phones are still debated. Although definitive links to Alzheimer’s can be elusive, making choices that limit chronic exposure to environmental harm makes good sense.
  5. Get Enough Rest. Sleep disorders and sleep disruption are common in older people and may adversely affect cognitive function, particularly memory and learning. In addition, older adults with sleep disorders may experience adverse cognitive effects associated with the use of sedatives and hypnotics, which are often prescribed as treatment for insomnia. Older adults with sleep disorders may benefit from strategies to promote sleep hygiene and avoiding daytime naps, as well as other treatment.
Three specifically supplements associated  with countering oxidative stress:Gingko Biloba – an extract of the leaves of the Gingko tree. Itincreases blood flow to the brain and is shown to slow the progression of dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s.Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) – an amino acid derivative that is expensive and the studies on it are inconclusive.Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) – a naturally occurring lipid that acts as a brain cell nutrient. It is thought to have a positive effect on memory and concentration and is known to be non-toxic.

Cognitive decline is not an inevitable part of aging. Research increasingly suggests that staying mentally, socially, and physically active and healthy can increase cognitive vitality and therefore play an important role in quality of life and survival. In addition, there is a growing interest in the development of drug treatments that may enhance cognitive vitality in older people who are experiencing normal aging.

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