Recent studies suggest that a slower walking speed from year to year and slowed mental processing could point to a higher risk of developing dementia. Here’s what you need to know.Read More
As we age, all parts of our bodies experience change, including the brain. Subtle changes in memory are a natural part of aging, but when they happen sooner than you anticipated or faster than expected, they can become a health concern. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to maintain good brain health and potentially help slow decline.
What is memory?
Memory is the ongoing process of retaining information. There are many different types of memory functions, each of which can be affected by the natural aging process.
“Some memory functions are preserved over time, such as recalling general information, performing basic tasks and remembering events from the past,” said Dr. Donna Raziano, Medical Director at Inspira LIFE, who is ABIM certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Hospice & Palliative Care. “Other memory functions will decline over time, such as learning and recalling new information.”
Aging and expected cognitive changes
As we age, several cognitive changes occur. Normal aging can affect memory and language in several ways. For instance, many people have difficulty remembering names or finding the right words in a conversation as they get older. However, normal aging does not typically affect long-term memory, recognition, intelligence, comprehension, vocabulary or syntax.
“The normal aging process leads to a gradual slowdown in information processing, problem-solving skills, cognitive processing and reaction time,” said Dr. Raziano. “Multi-tasking also tends to become more difficult as we get older.”
When problems with memory interfere with your day-to-day life and activities, they may require medical attention. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an early stage of memory loss where a person experiences a subtle but significant decline in memory or thinking skills. Forgetting to go to scheduled appointments, misplacing items and losing your train of thought mid-conversation are all signs of MCI. While these changes may not interfere with your day-to-day activities, MCI is a risk factor for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Maintaining your brain
According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), exercising is the best way to maintain your brain health. Engaging in aerobic exercise at least twice a week can positively influence your cognitive ability and reduce the risk of dementia. Exercise also promotes neuroplasticity, which is your brain’s ability to create new neural connections and adapt.
Other recommendations for maintaining good brain health and lowering the risk of cognitive decline include getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, reducing stress and staying socially active.
“Exercising your brain can also help maintain cognitive health,” said Dr. Raziano. “Studies suggest that mentally stimulating activities help build your cognitive reserve, which is your ability to withstand adverse changes before showing symptoms.”
Activities that improve brain health include:
- Board games
- Learning a new language
- Word games, such as crossword puzzles and Wordle
- Logic games, such as Sudoku
Inspira Living Independently for Elders (LIFE) helps participants maintain their active, independent lifestyles through the support of its medical, psychiatric, social and transportation services. This comprehensive care program helps participants manage meal planning, exercise, social life, dental and vision care, nutrition, mental health, appointment scheduling and more.
To be eligible for a PACE program like Inspira LIFE, a participant must:
- Be 55 years of age or older
- Live in the designated PACE service area—for Inspira that currently comprises all of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties
- Require a level of care that would make a participant eligible for placement in Long Term Facility under NJ Medicaid
- Able to live in a community setting without jeopardizing their health and safety (with services and supports of PACE)
To learn more about Inspira LIFE, visit www.InspiraLIFE.org.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff.