Cognitive and Physical Decline Don’t Have to Be an Inevitability of Aging
The aging process can be overwhelming for many of us, and it’s normal to feel a little down when we think about all the changes that come with it. However, it’s important to retain perspective and keep in mind that aging is a natural part of life and not something to feel sad about.
In recent years, remarkable advances in age-related technologies have made it possible to improve physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being as we age. The fact that the number of older adults is expected to double to 1.6 billion within 30 years is encouraging news, especially for seniors, according to a report by the McKinsey Health Institute. However, even though life expectancy has increased massively since the 1960s, the McKinsey report highlights that many people will spend many of those extra years in a state of relatively poor health.
Thankfully, advancements in medicine are helping to redefine both lifespan and healthspan.
Healthspan is the number of years that we live an active, healthy, illness-free life. This is the thing that most of us are concerned with as we strive to live our lives fully and with as few health issues as possible.
Remember, aging is a natural part of life, but by adopting positive habits and healthy daily routines, we can all enjoy a high quality of life, even as we enter those senior years. Taking care of ourselves, sleeping right, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly are all key when it comes to enhancing healthspan and delaying cognitive decline.
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1. Eat right
Making smart food choices by incorporating a variety of nutritious foods is foundational to healthy aging. A diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat that incorporates fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish will help provide the nutrition needed to lower the risk of developing age-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. To get enough protein throughout the day and maintain muscle, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends adding seafood, dairy, or fortified soy products along with beans, peas, and lentils to meals.
The NIA also advises seniors to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help stay hydrated and aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
2. Get moving
Physical activity is important for keeping muscles, bones and joints healthy and increasing flexibility.
As we age, we lose muscle mass. According to the NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), muscle mass and strength typically increase steadily from birth and reach their peak at around 30 to 35 years of age. The BLSA found that after that, “muscle power and performance decline slowly and linearly at first, and then faster after age 65 for women and 70 for men.”
Regular exercise can help older adults increase muscle strength, maintain a healthy weight and improve mobility and balance which can help avoid chronic health problems and reduce the risk of falls. The CDC recommends that adults 65 and older do at least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running. At least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles, working all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) is also recommended. Good forms of muscle strengthening exercises for seniors include water aerobics, resistance band workouts and body weight workouts.
3. Manage stress
Managing your stress levels is also critical to healthy aging. That’s because high levels of stress releases hormones like cortisol, which can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke, as well as induce sleep problems and memory and concentration impairment.
Adopting stress-reducing habits such as reading a book, doing yoga or tai-chi or mindful meditation can mitigate stress and promote healthy relaxation.
4. Get good sleep
Good sleep is vital for helping adults live longer and stay healthy. Some of the impacts of poor sleep include a decrease in attention and concentration and lack of energy. Research also found that poor sleep is associated with greater Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in cognitively healthy adults at risk for the disease.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that people 65 years and older get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Older adults can get better sleep by avoiding large meals before bed, having a sleep routine (going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning), keeping the bedroom dark (turning off the TV and all electronic devices), and practicing a relaxing pre-sleep routine.
Getting sufficient sleep helps the brain, and body recover from the day’s exertions and reduces the risk of developing disorders and diseases such as obesity, dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
5. Invest in Social Engagement
Social interaction has been proven time and again to have a significant influence on physical and cognitive health, particularly in older adults. Numerous studies have shown that there are many ways in which being socially active improves and, in some cases, reverses physical and cognitive decline. Having a good social life means keeping the brain sharp and active, also aiding in concentration, focus, and memory recall.
Social interaction is physically influential as it reduces stress, alleviates loneliness, and promotes healthy habits that are good for the future, especially in health agers. However, social interaction is much more than keeping good habits and meeting friends. Having the right social schedule often leads to more regular exercise, support for medical appointments, and more.
Cognitively speaking, active social lives offer much-needed mental stimulation, which can, in many cases, result in new neural connections being built. Regular conversations about various topics are vital to keeping the aging mind sharp and performing optimally. Healthy social interaction is also vital to hinder or reverse depression and anxiety. People who are lonely and perhaps don’t have enough family support benefit greatly from meeting friends regularly, helping to keep body and minds in check.
6. Keep the mind active
Just as physical exercise is important as we age, so too is keeping the mind active. In fact, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the benefits of cognitive training for older adults can last as long as 10 years. The training, aimed at boosting older adults’ skills in memory, reasoning and speed of processing, slowed their cognitive decline and helped study participants maintain functioning in daily living tasks for over a decade.
There are many activities that can help keep the mind sharp including reading, playing cards, doing crosswords puzzles, and playing Sudoku and chess. These brain games provide the benefit of stimulating different cognitive functions, such as executive function and information processing speed.
7. Embrace technology and stay connected
Technological advances are transforming the way people age, and can help prevent or even delay cognitive and physical decline. Such innovations are helping aging communities to stay connected and enjoy life fully, even in their golden years. Technological innovations like telemedicine, cognitive and exercise training apps have the potential to transform the aging process and enhance quality of life significantly.
Telemedicine and remote monitoring uses modern telecommunications technologies to support the delivery of all kinds of medical, diagnostic, and treatment-related services. It gives older individuals more options to manage complex conditions, access care when they need it, and reduce the burden on their caregivers.
Cognitive Training Apps are highly convenient as people can access them from their computer, tablet or mobile phones, and results or updates can be shared instantly with healthcare professionals. Programs can be tweaked and amended to meet the ongoing needs of the individual, offering maximum flexibility and immediate optimization.
8. Treating aging as a reversible disease
For years, there has been a misconception that declining mental and physical performance are a normal part of the aging process. Aviv Clinics holistic mind-body medical program is blowing that myth out of the water.
A new approach to reversing the aging process, the Aviv Medical Program with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at its core, treats aging as a disease to help people live healthier, happier and more productive lives for more years.
Aviv’s comprehensive medical program is an immersive and highly personalized program that can combine HBOT sessions, cognitive and physical training, and nutritional and lifestyle coaching to leverage the body’s regenerative abilities. In-depth assessments, analytics and a full physiologic evaluation result in a comprehensive plan that is customized to each person’s health improvement goals.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient in being able to channel oxygen to generate the necessary energy to recover from injury and illness. Boosting the body’s oxygen concentration levels helps improve performance, memory, attention span, focus and other brain-related executive functions, as well as regenerating body tissue, helping healthy aging adults live their best life at any age.
Comedian George Burns once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” Advances in medical science, including hyperbaric medicine, have made that statement truer than ever. At Aviv, we treat aging as a reversible condition, not an inevitability.
Contact us today to find out more about how our multidisciplinary treatment program can help you turn back the clock and get the most out of your golden years.