The Cottages Blog

5 Brain-Boosting Tips for Seniors

Posted by Lisa Chapman on May 16, 2016 9:00:00 AM

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The latest facts and figures estimate that about 5.4 billion people in the United States are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. As the large numbers of baby boomers reach age 65 and grow older, the number of Alzheimer’s cases will only grow with them. There’s no better time than now to focus on boosting your brain’s health. Here are some brain-boosting tips that could help you prevent cognitive decline.

1. Read and Write Regularly

A study published in the journal Neurology found that reading, writing, and playing games could slow the onset of dementia. This study looked at 294 seniors for six years and tested their cognitive abilities annually. Scientists found that the patients who read and wrote regularly had a much slower rate of mental decline than patients who were not avid readers or writers.

To add more reading and writing into your daily routine, try joining a book club in your area, or join an online community like Goodreads where you can track your reading progress and manage your reading lists. Keeping a daily journal doesn’t have to be as difficult as writing a novel. Try buying a one-line-a-day journal or a prompting journal with ideas for you to write about already printed on the pages. You can even find journals that are geared toward your specific interests, like bird-watching or travel.

2. Add Olive Oil to Your Diet

The Mediterranean diet has long been hailed as a heart-healthy way to eat. A new study now says that this type of diet, which is high in oils and greens and low in meat and dairy, is also good for your brain health. In this study, volunteers were asked to consume several tablespoons of olive oil each day. When these volunteers were evaluated on tests, they had faster thinking speeds than the volunteers who did not take the extra olive oil.

You don’t have to take several spoonfuls daily to add more olive oil into your diet though. Replace canola or vegetable oil with olive oil in recipes. Use olive oil instead of butter on toast and in pastas. You can even whip up a homemade classic French vinaigrette salad dressing using olive oil. This dressing tastes great, and it’s good for you, too.

3. Eat More Fish

A new study says eating more seafood could protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. This study looked at the diets of people who were genetically at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The participants who ate one or more fish meals a week were found to have less instances of Alzheimer’s damage to their brains later in life than those who ate very little fish or no fish at all.

Adding more fish to your diet is not difficult. The oilier the fish, the better for your brain health. Buy small fish like anchovies, sardines, herring, and kippers, or larger fish types like ocean tuna, Atlantic salmon, mackerels, eel, trout, mullet, and snapper. Fresh or canned, these fish have great amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to help boost your brainpower. Learn about 5 brain foods you should incorporate into Mom’s diet.

4. Manage Your Blood Sugar

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who have diabetes or prediabetes in middle age are more likely to experience cognitive decline than people who are not diabetic. Another study found that seniors who have type-1 diabetes have a 60-93 percent increased risk for dementia when compared to seniors who do not have diabetes.

While preventing cognitive decline is important, if you are diabetic, managing your blood sugar should always be one of your top priorities. Since everyone manages their blood sugar a little differently, make sure you follow the steps that your doctor has laid out for you. To minimize blood sugar spikes and drops, keep diabetic-friendly snacks and a blood glucose monitor on your person at all times.

5. Increase Your Attention Span

One study used MRI technology to look at the brains of a group of people known as “SuperAgers”, or seniors ages 80 and older whose brains are as sharp or sharper than people two to three decades younger than they are. This study found that these SuperAgers had brains that supported good attention spans. Since attention supports memory, it is possible that is one of the reasons these seniors’ brains stay so sharp.

There are many ways you can increase your attention span and train yourself to focus better. Try some of the following activities: meditate, listen to music, chew gum, exercise, keep yourself hydrated, ask questions when you have them, and take notes by hand when you can. All of these activities can help increase your ability to focus on the task at hand. You can also try this three-day plan to help increase your focus.

 

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Lisa Chapman

Written by: Lisa Chapman

Lisa has 18 years of nursing experience, and a big heart for caring for and helping the elderly in her community. When she’s at home, she enjoys spending time with her family, husband of over 20 years, James, and their twins, Alex and Alicia.