Staying Sharp: Can We Prevent Cognitive Decline?

Senior moments happen to the best of us. You walk into a room and forget why you’ve entered. You spend half an hour searching for your spectacles before having it pointed out that they are sat on top of your head.

You might have always been absent minded – I, for example, am naturally incapable of putting names to faces. Until we have been friends for years do not expect me to greet you with anything other than ‘mate’, ‘pal’, ‘bud’ or ‘hun’.

For some people, however, memory is their secret superpower. Always being able to keep track of dates, birthdays, names and where they left their keys is a calling card.

Whichever group you fall into, if you’re aware of having senior moments – you’re probably a long way off experiencing any significant mental decline.

Sorry, could you repeat that?

Studies have shown that people developing dementia tend to lose awareness that they are becoming more forgetful an average off two-to-three years before the condition presents itself.[1]

Memory awareness is a kind of self-awareness. You know that you do, or do not remember something. Patients who are beginning to demonstrate signs of dementia have less of this awareness.

Keys on the floor

Remind me, what should I do about that?

Losing some of your cognitive ability is inevitable as you grow older. Much like your body, your brain will find certain tasks more difficult with age. But, much like your body, exercise is great way of keeping the brain sharp.

Exercise?

Yes, exercise – both mental and physical – has been shown to slow cognitive decline.

Your physical and mental health are closely interlinked. Several studies have shown that increased exercise and the maintenance of a good diet as you age can help defend against cognitive decline.

While doing the SuDoku and Crossword every night might not sound like a whole barrel of laughs, doing tasks which test your mental agility do help to keep your brain in shape. Anything that keeps the memory and organization circuits in your brain active could help keep you sharp as you age.

Close up view of a blank crossword puzzle grid with black and white squares and a pencil

I’d forgotten that cognitive decline tends to affect older individuals…

While dementia and associated diseases may generally affect the older population, cognitive decline can happen to you at any point of life.

Not to sound like every high-school teacher from every movie ever made, but the brain is like a muscle – it needs enough sleep, the right diet and exercise or it will begin to atrophy.

So, unless you’re committed to spending thousands on smart-drugs like Provigil, start thinking now about keeping your brain finely tuned well into old age.

There’s no cure-all solution for cognitive decline but making sure you take steps to keep your brain active will help keep you sharper for longer.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11826225/Worrying-about-senior-moments-shows-mind-is-still-in-good-shape.html

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