In your 60+ years? Then you’ve probably had a few secret conversations with yourself about how “with it” you still are and I don’t mean “hip.” I’m talking about mentally on-track, cognitively aware, fully capable, etc.
Most adults in this age group are concerned about developing cognitive difficulties which could lead to dementia. This is not just paranoia fueled by media, it’s a result of the growing numbers of spouses, parents, and friends living with dementia. In 2014, around 12% of Nebraska’s seniors had some form of dementia. This percentage is expected to climb to 21% by 2025. (Our state’s population grows 2-4% a year.)
Normal aging is not helping the situation, either. As we age, from our 20’s and on, our mental function slows, we forget more, pay attention less, and take longer to think. Despite that, we can still learn, and function at very high levels.
Consistent changes in thinking ability make people nervous with good reason. Mayo Clinic recommends a neurological examination if you notice:
- Increased forgetfulness
- Multi-tasking is very difficult
- Lose ability to follow a movie or a conversation
- Forgetting important appointments or social events
- Decision making overwhelms you, and it hasn’t before
- Others are noticing you’re not as sharp as you were
These changes could be signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is changed cognitive ability beyond normal aging, but not so extreme as to be considered dementia. Important to note about Mild Cognitive Impairment is:
- It is not always permanent: it is reversible when caused by medication, a vitamin B-12 deficiency, thyroid abnormalities, or depression
- It does not necessarily lead to developing dementia; only half of people with MCI progress to dementia
- There is no medical treatment for MCI
- Researchers believe a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a Mediterranean type diet, and continued learning help people maintain brain health and cognitive functioning.
People with mild cognitive impairment still work and function very well in their daily activities, with adjustments. After being evaluated, here are 8 things you can do:
- Carry with you and use either a smart phone with a calendar and note taking function or a paper calendar version, like a Day-Timer.
- Practice remembering things by telling yourself what you’re going to do before and during the action. (I am going to call John now. Now I am calling John.)
- Develop neater habits so you have less clutter and are able to store and find things in routine places.
- Practice focusing and paying attention: for example, to people as they introduce themselves
- Do some brain training: Learn to play chess, do hard puzzles, talk about books with friends.
- Change your diet to Mediterranean, MIND, or DASH diets
- Ask your doctor about how much exercise you should be getting and then do it.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid diabetes and hyper tension. Both conditions are connected to cognitive declines.
Dr. Seuss had this to say: You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
Make the most of your brain health with diet, exercise, and mental engagement. Your mind is worth it, isn’t it?