As we age, we begin to notice changes in how we think. Our brains change as we get older, and small things like forgetting where you placed the keys can become more common. These regular changes can be off-putting when they happen more frequently, but they are not always a sign of a cognitive condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Below, you can find more information about brain aging and steps to improve your brain health as you age.
What Is Brain Health?
Brain health encompasses many facets, including tactile function, cognitive health, motor function and emotional function. The way you control movements, learn and remember, respond to touch sensations, respond to and interpret emotions, and feel pain, temperature and pressure are all factors you can use to determine your brain health.
Multiple natural events can cause cognitive decline and affect the above abilities. Age can affect the brain, and traumatic head injuries or strokes can impact cognitive ability. Additionally, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease impact your brain over time. Although you cannot change some factors that affect brain health, you can make some lifestyle changes to help make a difference.
Common Neurodegenerative Diseases
As you get older, you’re more likely to experience mind and body changes that can be a sign of various neurodegenerative diseases. Normal signs of aging can become a warning sign that you need to seek testing or care. Below, you can learn more information about the most common diseases for older adults and what symptoms to monitor.
Signs of Alzheimer’s disease can vary for each person. Changes in memory tend to be the first signs of this disease. In the early stages of cognitive decline, individuals may struggle with finding the right words, making sound judgments, comprehending spatial relationships, and interpreting visual images. These symptoms can become more severe as time progresses, potentially leading to significant confusion and behavioral changes.
The first Alzheimer’s symptoms tend to appear in the mid-60s or later. However, this disease can begin as young as 30. Mild cases may be hard to detect for healthy-looking individuals. Signs that there is an underlying condition typically show gradually. Other signs of this disease to watch for include:
- Misplacing items in strange places.
- Losing a sense of initiative.
- Forgetting recent information.
- Repeating questions.
- Getting lost or wandering.
- Finding it difficult to perform tasks such as bathing.
- Personality and mood changes.
- Forgetting current locations and dates.
- Experiencing difficulty when making financial decisions or handling money.
- Facing challenges when solving problems or planning.
- Feeling increased aggression or anxiety.
This disease impacts your brain’s blood vessels. It can cause bleeding in your brain or a reduction in the brain’s blood flow, both commonly known as a stroke. When these events occur, seeking immediate treatment is essential to prevent chronic disability or death. This condition is the fifth most common death cause, with more than 160,000 deaths in the United States in 2020.
People of any sex, race and age can experience this condition, though some factors can put individuals at higher risk. Additionally, the likelihood of a stroke doubles every 10 years after reaching age 55. Symptoms of cerebrovascular disease include the following:
- Balance issues
- Sensory issues on one side of the face or body
- Severe, sudden headaches
- Weakness or paralysis on one side of the face or body
- Difficulty understanding speech or speaking
- Slurred speech
- Double vision, loss of vision or visual field cut
Parkinson’s disease causes uncontrollable or unintended movements like stiffness, shaking and difficulty with coordination and balance. As you age, these symptoms typically worsen, and many people experience difficulty walking or talking. This disease can also cause memory difficulties, fatigue, depression, sleep problems and behavioral and mental changes.
Parkinson’s disease typically affects more men than women, with most experiencing symptoms after age 60. Although some instances of this condition may be hereditary, it often does not run in families. Exposure to toxins and a combination of genetic and environmental factors tend to result in Parkinson’s disease. Signs to monitor include:
- Muscle stiffness.
- Impaired coordination and balance, often leading to falls.
- Tremors in the head, jaw, legs, arms or hands.
- Slow movements.
- Emotional changes like depression.
- Skin issues.
- Constipation or urinary problems.
- Difficulty speaking, chewing or swallowing.
Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Lou Gehrig’s disease is a rare condition that affects motor neurons. This condition can affect people at any age, but the most common age to experience symptoms is between 55 and 75. Men are more likely to experience this condition than women, but as either sex ages, the chances of developing this disease increase. Watch for the following symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Muscle cramps
- Stiff and tight muscles
- Nasal and slurred speech
- Muscle weakness in the diaphragm, neck, legs or arms
- Muscle twitches in the tongue, arm, shoulder or leg
- Difficulty with language or making decisions
How to Improve Brain Health as You Age
Some lifestyle changes can significantly impact your cognitive functions. For instance, smoking and drinking can cause harm to your body and mind over time. Limiting these behaviors and implementing other positive habits, like taking the best vitamins for brain health or staying social, can help your mind stay young as you age.
Practice healthy brain habits as you age using these tips:
- Manage stress: Although stress is a natural part of life, chronic stress can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and affect memory. Several exercises can relieve stress. Exercise can restore a sense of well-being, and writing your thoughts can help you relieve internal problems. Other techniques, like relaxation methods and staying positive, can also help you enjoy the little things in life and appreciate the people and things around you. Practicing mindfulness can lower blood pressure and reduce muscle tension, giving you an all-around great feeling in mind and body.
- Eat healthy food: A healthful diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and lean meats can minimize your risk for some conditions. Limiting exposure to fats and sugars and having a consistent, healthy diet can slow cognitive decline rates.
- Remain social: Connecting with others can keep your mind active and improve your well-being. Those who engage in productive activities with other people tend to live longer, have a sense of purpose and feel boosts in their moods.
- Be physically active: Creating an exercise routine and completing tasks like household chores can improve your strength, provide more energy, reduce depression and anxiety, prevent or delay some medical conditions, and improve balance. Physical activity can benefit your cognitive functions and reinforce internal network connections.
Discover Lifestyle Options From Redstone
Redstone Highlands Communities make it possible for older adults to engage with others in a beautiful community setting while receiving high-quality services and care. We offer several lifestyle options for older adults, from independent living programs to skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Our specialized memory care programs are available for those needing skilled nursing and rehabilitation services to those looking for a residential program in a personal care setting. Redstone provides a welcoming community with a wide range of amenities making it a comfortable space for everyone.
Older adults can experience mental and physical changes that make daily routines challenging. We’ve created spaces where older adults can thrive while receiving the services they need to address these challenges. Contact us for more information about our lifestyle options.