As we age, inevitable changes occur throughout the body, including the brain. In older adults, some areas of mental ability (e.g., vocabulary and analytical skills) actually improve.
Did you know that 50% of cognitive function is determined by our genetics and age, while the other 50% is under our direct control?
Here are a few things that are thought to increase the likelihood of cognitive decline:
- Lack of mental and physical activity
- Substance use and abuse
- Social isolation
- Poor nutrition and sleep
- Chronic stress
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, depression, or hypertension.
How can we maximize our mental ability and reduce the effects of aging?
Recent research proves we can increase the number of neural connections at any age by challenging our brain. More connections mean improved cognitive function and fewer symptoms caused by dementia or trauma.
This requires a multi-faceted approach. Wellness initiatives such as building a social network, continuous learning, improving skills or learning new ones, physical activity, good sleep, and nutrition are proven to have a huge impact and long-lasting effects.
Attend exhibits, plays, musicals, and poetry readings; take a workshop or course; start a new hobby; listen to TED talks; download an app for brain stimulation.
If you are learning something new, changing a pattern or routine, or exercising your mind while you exercise your body, you are focusing on your intellectual wellness. And people who develop their intellectual wellness are more likely to maintain healthy cognitive function with age.