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Healthy Brain, Healthy Aging

How do you improve your brain health? A myriad of different genetic and environmental factors predict and affect long-term brain health. These factors directly correlate to the development of dementia. Healthy brain aging occurs through the tenth decade of life and helps predict your susceptibility to developing dementia. A healthy-aging path is characterized by independent activity, continuous learning and a strong memory. Of course, processing speeds and physical or sensory limitations are inevitable with aging, but none of these should inhibit independent activity and overall cognitive function.

Dementia Prevention is Key

When it comes to cognitive decline, awareness and prevention are essential. There are many risk factors that you can avoid or limit to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. According to Dr. James E. Galvin at The University of Miami’s McKnight Brain Institute, between 25–40% of dementia risk can be attributed to preventive factors, such as diabetes, poor diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, low level of education and lack of physical activity.

Take a few minutes to self-evaluate how these factors play a role in your life. Could you decrease your alcohol intake and trade it for a daily 15-minute walk? Could you dedicate an hour a day to brain-stimulating activities, such as reading or crossword puzzles? Or could you try cooking one more meal per week at home? Even small adjustments can improve the brain’s aging process and ensure you are on the best path to a healthy brain.

Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline

Although there is no way to completely eliminate the genetic risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, you can take steps to significantly reduce your environmental factors. Addressing these factors early on can promote successful aging by extending your independence, mitigating the impact of dementia in your everyday life and maintaining strong cognitive function.

Early Signs of Dementia

Early diagnosis and treatment for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is the best way to maintain—and in some cases improve—cognitive function, memory and thinking skills. By recognizing and addressing cognitive changes as early as possible, you can live a fuller life with greater independence and fulfillment. Some of the early signs of dementia to look out for are:

  • Early judgment/problem-solving deficits
  • Early visual and perceptual deficits on cognitive tests
  • Depression
  • Psychomotor slowing
  • Gait slowing during multitasking
  • Declining physical performance

Mild Cognitive Impairment to Moderate and Severe Dementia

Many symptoms of aging occur on a spectrum, including memory loss and impairment. In the early stages of dementia, increased socialization and mental stimulation play a key role in maintaining engagement and function. Once the dementia progresses to a more severe stage, the focus moves from slowing dementia progression to ensuring a positive quality of life. Considering the wants and needs of people with dementia is essential to providing a safe, enjoyable and stimulating environment. At Belmont Village, we prioritize individual patient desires at the same level as logistical and communal concerns.

Creating a Personal Guide

Addressing dementia is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Because there are many pathways to Alzheimer’s and related dementias, there are also many pathways to help maintain cognitive function. Creating a personalized guide to brain health is an easy and approachable way to facilitate healthy brain aging. To do this, create goals and checkpoints for cognitive function while continually monitoring risk factors and evaluating lifestyle choices. This will result in the best-possible pathway to whole brain fitness and healthy brain aging. At Belmont Village, we emphasize the importance of personalized plans for each person and employ proven programs that accommodate every member of our community.