Cognitive impairment occurs when the brain does not work as well as before. For example, a person experiencing cognitive impairment may have difficulty learning, using language or remembering things.
A bit of cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. Cognitive impairment occurs rapidly or that affects daily activities is called dementia. Dementia may be a symptom of a more serious condition such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease or head injury.
Can I prevent cognitive decline?
When your body ages, it also ages your brain. A bit of cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. You can not stop it or avoid it. However, you can maintain health and prevent disease with healthy choices in lifestyle, diet and physical activity.
Is there a diet for a “healthy brain”?
Yes and no. While there is no specific diet that is best for brain health, eating a healthy diet is important for overall health. Choose foods that nourish the body and the brain may help prevent or delay the onset of diseases, including those that cause dementia.
Tips to nourish the body and brain
- Control your weight . Some studies show that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol may increase the risk of dementia. To lose weight and keep it off, try to avoid short-term diets or “fashionable” diets. Instead, adopt a healthy way of thinking and eating. Find and follow a few “rules” that work for you. The Mediterranean diet can be a good starting point.
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains . You’ve heard it before: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Probably no surprise that these same foods also help protect brain function. The antioxidants in green leafy vegetables, cruciferous those (such as broccoli, cabbage and turnips) and dark-skinned vegetables may be particularly protective. Try beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, kale, red peppers, romaine lettuce or spinach.
- Avoid saturated fats . Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as red meat and whole milk dairy products, can contribute to the presence of high levels of cholesterol. Over time, high cholesterol may increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. To limit your intake of saturated fat, use olive or canola (rapeseed) instead of butter to saute or frying, or use the oven or grill for cooking.When eating meat, choose chicken or fish. Also, choose fat-free dairy products or low-fat instead of whole milk products.
- Get your omega-3 fatty acids. The most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel and herring. To get your omega-3 fatty acids, try eating at least one of these fish once or twice a week.
- Talk to your doctor about taking supplements .Research shows that some vitamins such as vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folic acid can help protect the brain. Besides a healthy diet, taking a multivitamin can help ensure you get enough of these nutrients. If you do not eat fish and is concerned that you do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids, you may consider taking a fish oil supplement.
What else can I do to maintain brain health?
You can stay active physically, socially and mentally. Physical activity helps to prevent diseases and maintain blood flow to the brain. If you do not exercise, try to make a maximum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five times per week. Moderate activity is considered anything that increases your heart rate. Walking, hiking, biking and swimming are all good choices. Choose something you like.
Social interaction helps stimulate the mind. Social activities are those that you do with other people. It can be as simple as lunch with a friend or walk around your neighborhood with a neighbor. Opportunities to volunteer in your community or your church are good forms of participation. Or, try to find a club or social group that focuses on an activity you enjoy, such as a sport, craft or hobby.
Finally, to keep brain cells strong and active, it is important to keep mentally active. Assert yourself the challenge of learning something new. Read newspapers, books and magazines. Sign up for any kind of higher education in the community or local education center for adults. Or, consider challenges in different ways, for example, board games, puzzles and memory exercises.