Factors That Contribute to Cognitive Aging

Factors That Contribute to Cognitive Aging

Misplaced car keys. The longer-than-usual search for the car in a mall parking lot. Walking into a room wondering what we came in there for in the first place. It happens to all of us at one time or another, but many of us assume that memory loss is inevitable and comes with the territory of aging. Some memory problems are just the result of a busy day with a lot of distractions, but you shouldn’t expect memory loss or a decline in your mental abilities just because you are getting older.

Our continued wellness depends on strengthening muscles, staying active in order to increase energy levels, and reducing our risk for disease with healthy choices, but it shouldn’t just be limited to our physical fitness. Cognitive health is equally important and can be easier to improve and maintain than you may know. Cognitive health can include an array of brain functions that may decline if they are neglected:

  • Working memory
  • Visual perception
  • Reasoning, conceptualizing a problem and making effective decisions
  • Language skills
  • Attention
  • Speed of processing

Aside from serious forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, many seniors find that their cognitive functions seem to slow down over time.  What factors contribute to cognitive aging and how can you address these factors? 

  1. Retirement -  Once you are retired, you are less likely to be strategizing, managing problems, and creating solutions to potential issues for eight hours each day. Find ways to challenge yourself in your new routine, even if it’s less structured or intense. Make deliberate decisions throughout the day to keep your mind active and take advantage of free online memory improvement games that may help stimulate the parts of your brain you might be neglecting.   
  2. Isolation - Less social interaction can contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of detached behavior that fosters forgetfulness or a lack of concentration, including depression or anxiety. Make an effort to stay involved in your community, engaged socially, and busy. Use your time wisely by volunteering and committing to activities that will keep connected.
  3. Medications – Prescription drugs and supplements may produce side effects that impact your health, causing mental dullness or drowsiness. Discuss any signs or symptoms you notice with your doctor. There may be alternative medications your physician can suggest.
  4. Sensory changes – A decline in hearing or eyesight can make it difficult to react and can interfere with processing of information. Many Medicare Advantage plans include vision care and hearing exams. Take advantage of these benefits to identify and treat any sight or hearing problems you may have.
  5. Pain - Caused by arthritis, injury, or chronic illness, pain can affect your reaction speed and ability to concentrate. Don’t suffer in silence. If you experience pain or chronic discomfort, discuss it with your physician.

As we age, there is an obvious emphasis placed on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one that includes physical fitness and a healthy diet. Activity and exercise are recommended to keep us moving on a daily basis, strengthening muscles that may weaken and deteriorate over time. Physicians remind us to eat a nutritious, balanced diet full of superfoods and antioxidants to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. In addition to all of these important recommendations, we need to focus on our mental muscles and our cognitive wellness as well. If you need help addressing these factors that contribute to cognitive aging, talk to your loved ones and physician about steps you can take to help improve your cognitive function.

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