Older adults experience many physical and mental changes as they age. For example, the brain loses some nerve cells, making it take longer for messages to travel through the nervous system. In some people, waste products accumulate in the brain tissue, leading to an increased risk of cognitive decline.

At Chesapeake Manor, we encourage residents to develop habits that support brain health at all stages of life. Here’s what you need to know about preserving your cognitive function as you age.

The Importance of Keeping Your Brain Healthy

Your brain is involved in everything you do, so it’s important to preserve as much brain function as possible. Your brain cells help you learn new things, recall cherished memories, move your body and interpret a variety of tastes, sights, sounds and sensations. Without proper brain functioning, you wouldn’t be able to walk, sing, enjoy the beauty of nature or perform any of your other favorite activities.

Senior man holding his head concept image for cognitive decline.

Symptoms of Cognitive Decline

Mild cognitive decline refers to subtle changes in your mental function. These changes don’t interfere with your normal daily activities, but they do represent a slight decline from your baseline. Mild cognitive decline may cause the following symptoms:

  • Missing appointments
  • Forgetting things more than usual
  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Losing your train of thought
  • Difficulty getting around
  • Trouble following instructions or making decisions

Some people with mild cognitive decline also experience anxiety, depression or irritability.

7 Tips to Help Seniors Improve Their Brain Health

If you’re concerned about impaired brain function, there are several things you can do to prevent further mental decline and improve your overall mental health. Here are seven tips for improving brain health for seniors.

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you want to improve your brain health, start by getting plenty of high-quality sleep. Not getting enough sleep makes it difficult to think clearly and make wise decisions. If you snore or have frequent headaches upon waking, ask your doctor to order a sleep study. You may have sleep apnea, which causes fragmented sleep due to the repeated pauses in breathing that occur during the night.

To improve your sleep quality, try establishing an evening routine that gets you in the right frame of mind for rest. If possible, avoid using electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bed. Get into the habit of listening to soft music, reading or meditating before you turn down the covers. It’s also helpful to go to bed at around the same time each night.

2. Eat the Right Foods

A well-balanced diet is essential for keeping your brain healthy. According to the National Institutes of Health, following the Mediterranean diet slows down some brain changes that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, such as olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. People on this healthy diet also eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

If you have a sweet tooth, try eating a small piece of dark chocolate each day. Research shows that eating dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% may improve verbal memory, or the ability to recall information presented verbally, two hours after consumption.

Seniors eating healthy foods.

3. Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If your doctor tells you your blood pressure is too high, work to lower it. Reducing your sodium intake, getting more exercise and taking prescribed medications can all help lower blood pressure to safer levels.

4. Try Brain Health Activities for Seniors

Stimulating the brain is a great way to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline. If you’re concerned about cognitive impairment, try crossword puzzles, trivia games or board games to keep your mind active. You can even download brain training apps on your smartphone or tablet.

5. Exercise Often

People who exercise regularly tend to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Regular exercise also helps with weight control, lowers blood pressure and may help you keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you have arthritis or other health problems, get as much physical activity as you can. Walking slowly is better than getting no exercise at all, especially when it comes to improving your cognitive health.

6. Maintain Strong Social Relationships

Social isolation increases the risk of cognitive decline, so do your best to remain socially active as you age. Chesapeake Manor has comfortable common areas where you can chat with friends, play games or participate in one of the many activities we plan throughout the year.

7. Reduce Your LDL Cholesterol Level

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) is known as “bad” cholesterol because it increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. If your LDL level is higher than it should be, take steps to reduce it. The CDC recommends consuming less saturated fat and quitting smoking. You should also eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and increase your intake of soluble fiber. Walnuts, salmon and flaxseeds all have high levels of omega-3s.

Happy group of seniors.

Improve Your Brain Health in Assisted Living or Memory Care

Located in Willards, Maryland, Chesapeake Manor offers several levels of care to meet your needs. Whether you’re concerned about your risk of cognitive decline or need a little help with day-to-day activities, Chesapeake Manor can provide just the right living situation.

Our assisted living community has private rooms, staff members on duty 24/7 and family-style living to ensure your comfort. We also plan daily and weekly activities so you have plenty of opportunities to maintain social relationships. If you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or any other disease that causes memory loss, we also have memory care services available to keep you safe and comfortable.

To learn more about Chesapeake Manor or arrange for a tour of the best senior living community, contact us at 410-835-2427.