The decline of body systems is an inevitable process that people have to go through as they age. The same way older adults can’t go about their duties as energetically as they used to when they were young, so do their cognitive functions slow down as well. Some of the main cognitive problems that a number of old people encounter are long term memory loss and slowed information processing.
How Does Age Affect Brain Health?
There are various physical changes that occur in the brain as you age that lead to decreased cognitive functioning:
Decrease in brain mass
The frontal lobe and the hippocampus which are responsible for your brain’s higher functions such as forming new memories start to shrink. This happens at around 60-70 years and it causes difficulties in remembering new information.
Decrease in Cortical Density
As you age, synaptic connections decrease in number and it causes the thinning out of the outer surface of the brain. Due to the decline in the connections in the brain, the speed of processing goes down.
Shrinkage of White Matter
The white matter is made up of myelinated nerve fibers that pass signals from one cell to another in the brain. Myelin shrinks as you age so this reduces cognitive function and processing.
Decrease of Neurotransmitter Activity
With age, the brain releases less chemical messengers like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. This contributes to a decrease in cognitive functions, motor performance, memory, and it may even lead to depression.
The Main Symptoms of Brain Degeneration
A decline in brain functionality due to age can be seen through the following:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating especially when there is background noise or distractions
- Forgetfulness of words, names, or even activities done recently
- Constantly misplacing items and not remembering where they are
- Mood changes
- Difficulty in multitasking
- Loss of inhibitions
- Difficulty in learning something new
- Ease in getting agitated or quickly losing temper in an argument
- Taking longer to finish everyday tasks
- Difficulties in coming to decisions
How to avoid long term memory loss
The brain doesn’t decline in function at the same rate in everyone. There are people who remain very sharp even at an advanced age. You can avoid going down the road of severe mental degradation and maintaining optimum brain function even to old age. Just like the body needs exercise to be healthy, the brain also needs to be maintained through various practices:
Stimulate Your Brain
Engaging in activities that put your mental faculties to task causes new nerve cell connections to form and even creates new brain cells. This creates neurological plasticity, in that, if you lose any brain cells in the future, it wouldn’t diminish your cognitive abilities because enough would have accumulated.
You can stimulate your brain through activities such as solving puzzles and math problems, learning a new language, taking up an instrument, or doing crafts that require manual and mental dexterity like painting.
Healthy eating is not only good for the body but for the brain as well. A good diet helps in keeping the brain alert, retaining memories, and lowering the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.
For a healthy brain, eat a lot of fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils.
Exercise Your Body
Exerting your body muscles has a lot of benefits for your brain health. It facilitates the flow of blood to areas of the brain that are used for thinking, stimulates the development of new nerve cells and increases synaptic connections. This promotes the brain’s plasticity and adaptability which means better performance.
Get Enough Sleep
When you sleep, your brain consolidates and stores the memories of the day and this is how short-term memory and long-term memory are created. If you don’t get enough sleep, it will cause you to experience memory loss. Poor sleep quality also leads to difficulties in concentrating the next day.
Avoid Smoking and Excess Alcohol Consumption
Cigarettes contain harmful toxins that can damage your brain and impair its functionality in the long run. In fact, heavy smokers have a 172% risk of developing dementia according to a 2010 study. On the other hand, taking more than two drinks of alcohol in a day also introduces toxins to your body that are harmful to your brain and increases your risk of suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.
Protect Your Head
Head injuries or traumas increase your chances of having brain impairment. Take precautions to protect your head by fastening your seat belt in vehicles, wearing a helmet when riding a motorbike or bicycle, putting handrails on your staircases or even the bathroom, and clearing clutter that may trip you in the house.
Manage Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure has been attributed to cognitive malfunctions in old age. Maintaining your blood pressure at healthy levels will help in keeping your brain healthy. You can avoid high blood pressure by exercising, managing your body weight, managing stress levels, limiting alcohol intake, and eating healthy.
Treatment Options for Brain Degeneration
There is no cure for brain degenerative diseases. Once they appear, they only get worse with time so mitigating them before is very important. The medication recommended by doctors only reduces the symptoms and improves the quality of life.
Natural Remedies to Maintain Brain Health
Since there’s no cure for brain degeneration, the only option you have is to boost your brain functioning before you get to the point where they start deteriorating. There are several natural ways you can use to boost your memory and mental abilities:
It contains the compound curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are very beneficial for brain health and general health. It also clears beta-amyloid, a protein that contributes to developing Alzheimer’s disease if it accumulates. It also acts a shield against the breaking down of the brain’s nerve cells.
It’s a traditional Chinese medicine that has long been used to treat dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment. It boosts cognitive functioning by promoting the flow of blood to the brain.
It’s a widely-used herbal medicine that has anti-inflammatory compounds known as ginsenosides. Like turmeric, it reduces the amount of beta-amyloid in the brain.
It is often taken in tea to treat insomnia and anxiety. It is also used in improving cognitive functioning.
It is used in the improvement of mental clarity. It can also be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, oxidative stress, and in improving general cognitive functioning.
Fish Oil Supplement
It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, anxiety and mental decline. Fish oil supplements have also been observed to improve memory in older adults.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with a reduction in cognitive power. It is common in people who live in cold climates. If you live in a constantly cold climate, consider getting vitamin D supplements. If you live in a favorable climate, consider going out in the sun in the morning or in the evening to get a dose of vitamin D.
The Ayurvedic solution to maintaining brain health is in finding harmony between the logical and the emotional mind. This can be done by a combination of lifestyle, herbs, and diet.
To achieve mental health, there are practices that you need to make a daily routine. They include drinking water first when you wake up, scraping the tongue, getting enough sleep, being respectful, truthful, and pleasant to people. These are healthy routines that boost mental health.
In Ayurveda, it is believed that eating foods that are alike to the soft brain tissue is healthy for it. Such foods include bone marrow, avocado, nuts, ghee, and seeds.
Herbs are used in Ayurveda to boost intellect, willpower, and memory. These herbs include Jatamansi, Tulsi, Brahmi, and Kapikacchu. They are mostly eaten as supplements but can also be used in ghee or in oil for massaging the scalp.
Learn how to take care of your brain
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- how to counteract the brain-damaging effects of processed foods, stressful lifestyle, physical inactivity, and environmental toxins
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When your brain health is well taken care of, it improves your general well-being; physical, social, emotional, and spiritual both now and in your later years. Take steps today and you’ll thank yourself in the future.