Cognitive Decline at 45? Six Ways To Protect Your Aging Brain

Posted by on April 25, 2013 under Resources | Read the First Comment

It’s no surprise to any of us that our memory and comprehension skills deteriorate as we age.  However, surprising new research reports that mental decline may start much earlier than was previously believed – possibly as early as age 45!   With so many of us working longer and living longer, preventing cognitive decline is increasingly important. Fortunately, what’s good for our hearts is often good for our brains.  Read on for six easy ways to protect your aging brain:

  1. This_is_how_your_brain_agesEducation.  Keep mentally active! Our brains produce twice the number of neurons they’ll will need in childhood, but only neurons that are reinforced with use will remain. Take a class in something new, read a book on something that intrigues you, or take a few minutes for a morning crossword puzzle over coffee.  Constantly learning and challenging your brain will help you retain neurons and fight age-related cognitive decline.
  2. Exercise.  People who suffer from one or more risk factors for heart disease – including obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol – are not only at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, but their risk of dementia skyrockets, too.  Just walking regularly for 30-45 minutes 3-5 times a week can protect both your heart and your brain.  Now that’s an investment with high returns!  See this article on the health benefits of walking, and for a 6 week beginner walking plan
  3. Rest.  Sleep deprivation early in life is linked to memory loss as we age.  And losing just two hours of sleep a night – sleeping 6 hours instead of 8 – will hinder your thinking and memory the next day.  Sleep deprivation is also linked to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.  Make adequate, restful sleep a priority!  8 hours a night may help prevent memory loss in both the immediate and long term.
  4. Healthy Diet.  Just like with exercise, what benefits the body also benefits the brain.  Eat a healthy diet, keep indulgences within moderation, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and your memory will thank you!  New research is showing that certain foods boost cognitive function, too – see this article on the 5 best foods for your brain.
  5. Reduce Stress.  Chronic stress drives our bodies to release corticosteroids (stress hormones).  Over time, or in large quantities, these hormones  will wear away the neurons in the hippocampus as well as weaken our immune systems.  So if you’re managing chronic stress, it’s not only affecting your health – it’s also potentially damaging your memory and increasing your rate of cognitive decline.  Take stress seriously!  Here are 23 scientifically-backed ways to reduce chronic stress.
  6. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure).  As we age, our brains actually lose weight and begin to shrink; most of the weight lost is water. (Unfortunately, drinking more water won’t change this – although drinking water has powerful health benefits.) That brain shrinkage usually leads to worsened cognitive abilities, which is partly why the older we get, the more our memories fail.  Hypertension actually speeds up normal brain shrinkage, increasing the rate of cognitive decline.  Fortunately, everything that’s recommended above will also work to reduce hypertension: a healthy diet, exercise, reducing stress, getting adequate rest and so on.  For some people, medication is also necessary to help reduce their blood pressure. If you have questions about medication, talk to your primary care physician.

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