As people approach 50, otherwise known as the half way mark or over the hill, they begin to take more notice of how their bodies and brains are changing. Notable examples could be taking longer to remember information, decrease in energy, physical changes, challenges with motor skills, and emotional capacities to manage life changes. With a bombardment of information coming at us from numerous directions such as our relationships with loved ones and colleagues, the Internet, careers, keeping up with calendars, etc. it can be overwhelming to remember many situations, events, and people.
The process of aging begins the moment we are born and our mental ability to process is highly adaptable especially with situations and skills that are “experience-dependent” and is identified as neural plasticity or brain plasticity. Our brain is constantly adapting to our environment and so by maintaining an active lifestyle with activities that focus on cognitive, physical, nutrition, and social aspects this will enable us to continuously learn new skills and refine skills which assists the neurons in our brain to release information and remain active (Cai, Chan, Peng, Yan, 2014).
With an increase in cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, it’s important to be aware of signs the body shows a consistent decline. Forgetfulness, such as walking into a room and forgetting why or misplacing documents are common, yet when this happens on a more constant basis then it is time to visit the doctor for an evaluation. Just as a person exercises to keep the body in form, so must one exercise new skills at home or work or upholding current practices to ensure the brain can function well (Cai, Chan, Peng, Yan, 2014).
- Maintain routines Place your important items, such as keys, wallets/purses, important documents, etc. in the same place each time.
- Self-care techniques to reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- Life long student. Practice mental and physical activities that encourage thinking and problem solving.
- Play video games. This encourages brain matter to reform itself. (Cai, Chan, Peng, Yan, 2014).
- Restful sleep. Taking a 15-20 minute nap and sleeping 6-8 hours allows your body to repair itself without distractions or stress.
- Especially aerobic, which increases your heart rate and pumps more blood into your body. Active individuals have are able to process information easier and at a faster rate as it slows down the reduction of brain tissue (Gomez-Pinilla and Hillman, 2013).
- Maintain an active lifestyle by engaging in physical activities such as cleaning, cooking, being outside, visiting with friends and family.
Brain inflammation, otherwise known as oxidative stress, reduces the impact of neurons firing each other, which then cause further deterioration of the body. Constant stress, depression, and anxiety also accelerate the aging process because it causes the brain to remain in fight/flight mode or crisis mode rather than allowing it to relax (Dias et al, 2012). People can naturally reduce inflammation and promote relaxation by eating foods with polyphenols. These foods have anti-oxidant properties, which protect the brain and aid in mental and emotional health and reduce the onset of cognitive diseases. (Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Nguyen, T. T. J., 2012).
Another important factor is to be aware of medications that may have side effects which may impact memory and motor skills, as well as, interactions between supplements and medications. Always discuss with your doctor if you are taking supplements and learn about the side effects.
Memory Enhancing Foods
- Green tea
- Turmeric spice
- Eat blueberries
Aging gracefully involves a person maintaining an active lifestyle by engaging in cognitive practices that maintain motor skills and for the brain to remain active, exercising, and eating whole foods and spices that help the body reduce inflammation. It is also important to be aware of prescription side effects or interactions caused by supplements. Becoming older should not be a feared state but one of acceptance and enjoyment as one is more knowledgeable and aware of one’s body and mind.
Cai, L., Chan, J. S. Y., Yan, J. H., & Peng, K. (2014). Brain plasticity and motor practice in cognitive aging. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 6, 31. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00031
Dias, G. P., Cavegn, N., Nix, A., do Nascimento Bevilaqua, M. C., Stangl, D., Zainuddin, M. S. A., … Thuret, S. (2012). The Role of Dietary Polyphenols on Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis: Molecular Mechanisms and Behavioural Effects on Depression and Anxiety. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2012, 541971. doi:10.1155/2012/541971)
Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Hillman, C. (2013). The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology, 3(1), 403–428. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110063
Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Nguyen, T. T. J. (2012). Natural mood foods: The actions of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 15(3), 127–133. doi:10.1179/1476830511Y.0000000035