senior woman doing crossword puzzleThe brain is one of the most important organs in our bodies. It controls our thinking, learning, speech and emotions, also allowing us to feel and store memories. Our ability to recall favorite memories keep us connected to the people and places that matter most to us.

As we age, our brains begin to shrink and memory may start to decline. For seniors, this can manifest as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, which causes damage to the part of our brain that controls memory.

By consistently exercising our brain, we can help keep it active. Here are a few ways to help keep your brain healthy with age.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s recommended that seniors get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. The resulting fatigue may cause you to experience trouble concentrating or thinking clearly.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the brain may flush out toxins during sleep that build up while we’re awake. These molecules can damage neurons in the brain that communicate with the rest of the body, potentially leading to neurodegeneration. This loss of function can result in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Getting a good night’s sleep is not always easy, especially for seniors. Aging can disrupt our circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep and wake cycles. To set a sleep routine, head to bed and wake up around the same times every day. After a while, your body should adjust to this more consistent schedule.

Stay Stimulated

Stimulating the brain can help prevent loss of cells and may generate new ones! These neurons allow information to be sent from the brain to other areas of the body. As the cells die, it becomes more difficult for your brain to function efficiently.

To improve cognitive function and emotional health, it’s crucial for seniors to maintain some level of social interaction. Moving to a skilled nursing facility or having friends and family relocate can lead to feelings of isolation, which can affect seniors psychologically.

Daily phone calls with family members or friends can keep you connected and help your brain recall old memories during these conversations.

Another great way to stimulate the brain is with mental exercises. Thinking games or puzzles can be a challenging but entertaining way to work the brain and help improve its function. Try a fun activity like Jigsaw and Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku or Solitaire.

Manage Stress

Stress can affect many brain functions, including memory, learning and mood. When we feel stressed, the hormones in our brains can make it harder for short-term memories to be turned into long-term ones.

For seniors, stress can lead to certain neurological disorders such as anxiety, depression and dementia. As we get older, we may experience stress from the death of a close friend or loved one, certain lifestyle changes or new physical limitations.

To cope with stress, seniors are encouraged to engage in low-impact exercise, play cognitive games and adopt healthy eating habits.
To learn more about maintaining a healthy brain with age, contact Avon Health Center.