Focus on Brain Health to Keep Your Mind SharpPublished: Sept. 15, 2022
As you age, it’s expected that you may have some cognitive changes. You may experience changes in how quickly you process information or come up with words. Even some aspects of memory may change.
So, what can you do to help your brain stay as healthy as possible as you age? And when are cognitive changes just a sign of aging – and when are they something more significant?
Ways to Help Your Brain Health
Make your physical health a priority. General health tips regarding healthy diet, managing health conditions and engaging in physical activity are often a good start when thinking about how to keep your brain healthy.
Research suggests that staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for brain health. Physical activity helps transfer blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Research also shows that regular physical activity not only can affect brain health, cognitive functioning and overall health, but also is linked to better mood, lower stress and overall better well-being.
Keep your brain active. While it’s important to get up and move, it’s also essential to keep your brain actively engaged in activities that you enjoy and require thinking. Depending on your interests, such activities may include reading books, completing games or puzzles, preparing a new recipe or meal, volunteering, creating art, or planning an activity.
Socialize with others. Socializing plays a key role in keeping your mind sharp. You might not realize it, but engaging in conversation requires a lot of cognitive abilities, including attention, language, memory and complex thinking. This socialization can take the form of calling a friend or family member on the phone, meeting up with someone for a meal or coffee, or engaging in local community events.
When Is Memory Loss or Cognitive Change Significant?
If you find yourself forgetting things more often or having more difficulty keeping track of information, you might be wondering if it’s significant enough to be worried about. If it’s something that you or those close to you notice and are concerned about, making note of it and letting your doctor know is a good first step.
Changes in thinking become concerning when they start to disrupt the ability to do things or tasks throughout the day, and often the people around us may be first to notice such changes. If you or a family member bring up a cognitive concern during a doctor’s visit, your primary care physician (PCP) may ask you some questions and have you complete a brief cognitive screening test. If necessary, your PCP may refer you to the Methodist neuropsychology clinic for more detailed testing to determine if symptoms are consistent with aging or something more.
Completing an evaluation at our clinic allows us to determine whether there’s impairment and, if so, which level of impairment it is (such as mild cognitive impairment or dementia). If there are cognitive difficulties, we identify which areas of thinking are affected (such as memory, attention, language, executive functioning, processing speed or visuospatial abilities) and what factors may be causing the changes — there are a number of conditions and factors that can affect memory and thinking. Determining the cause is an important step in the treatment process, as it provides helpful information to you and your health care team.
We’ll help work with you to identify how any cognitive changes or symptoms may be impacting your life, and we’ll provide strategies to help that are uniquely tailored for your needs.
Being an active participant in your health is one of the most important things that you can do in life, especially when it comes to your brain. If you or those around you start to notice changes in your ability to remember things or actively engage in the world around you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider. And our team is ready to help you if you need extra support navigating cognitive concerns.