As we age, the process of natural decline in both our body and mind begins.
Although there are many diets, supplements and health products that promise to reverse this decline, the reality is that aging is inevitable. However, there are actions that can be taken to preserve brain health for as long as possible.
People often talk about how to keep the body healthy as we age, but what about brain health? To answer this question, we consulted two experts, who gave us the lowdown on what happens to the brain as we age and what can be done to protect it.
Dr. Thomas Hammond, neurologist at Baptist Health’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute, explains that signs of normal cognitive aging usually appear around age 45.
At that age, it is common to experience minor memory losses such as forgetting names or places, but these memory fragments usually return within a few hours of trying to remember them. According to Dr. Hammond, these minor memory lapses are not a sign of the development of dementia or cognitive decline.
On the other hand, cognitive impairment refers to a decline in cognitive ability beyond what is expected for age.
Forgetting important conversations or appointments can be a worrying sign of significant early cognitive decline. Similarly, forgetting words or facts is a sign of premature aging, as this type of memory loss usually occurs later in life.
While there are genetic factors that can affect cognitive health, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other degenerative neurological conditions, there are also lifestyle factors that play a role.
According to Dr. Hammond, family history and a genetic predisposition to certain heart diseases can increase the risk of cognitive decline. Additionally, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, and lack of physical activity also increase the risk of stroke, which negatively affects cognitive health.
However, not everything is out of our control. Lifestyle factors play an important role in cognitive health.
A geriatric psychiatrist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, Dr. George Grossberg notes that genetics and the parenting environment are determining factors, but lifestyle factors are also important.
Living a meaningful and inspiring life with low stress levels and establishing a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference.