Imagine Health

Brain Health – How You Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

What is cognition? The word comes from the Latin root cognoscere, which means “to know”.  Cognitive decline is a normal feature of the ageing process. It happens at different times in your life and you may notice it in different ways.

Although it is age related for some people, the exact reason for cognitive decline is unknown. Research has suggested that cognitive decline can be associated to certain environmental factors that are not conducive to normal brain health. Malnutrition and lack of exercise have been correlated to poor cognitive functioning.

There are four main steps to help prevent cognitive decline;

Follow a healthy and nutritious diet. Certain foods are good for your brain health, these include;

  • Oily fish
  • Blueberries
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Avocadoes

Get regular exercise.
Research has shown that engaging in regular aerobic exercising can be associated to a reduction and prevention of cognitive decline. A randomised controlled trial<\a> conducted by Cassilhas, Viana, Grassmann et al. (2007) found that resistance training exercise in healthy older adults showed an improvement in cognitive functioning.

Socialize. Socialising with friends is an important way to slow down cognitive decline. People who connect with others generally perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. Additionally, people with active social lives are less likely to develop dementia than those who are more socially isolated.

Challenge your brain. We have all heard of ‘brain training’ techniques. Keeping your brain active by challenging yourself to learn something new is a great way to slow down cognitive decline. A common term used by people in the field of cognition is the “Use it or Lose it”.

Reduce your stress levels. Stress increases cortisol levels, which can attack the neural connections in the brain. If we are able to reduce the stress in our lives, we may be able to improve our cognition, because reducing stress improves neural connections.

Keep Positive. Keeping a positive attitude makes us more creative when solving problems, and probably makes us more cognitively flexible.

Meditate. Meditation can also help our cognition. In the last few years, a lot of studies have investigated the effects of meditation on our cognitive processes. Meditation requires concentration and a conscious effort to pay attention. These functions are known to be important in creating new neural circuits in the brain. The study seems to support this idea, and meditation has been related to improvements in attention, memory, executive functions, processing speed, and general cognition.

If you are concerned about your own cognition, or the cognition of others, give the above steps a try for a few weeks and see if you can see any improvements. You will be surprised at how much change can come from implementing these small changes into your everyday life.