September is National Healthy Aging Month. And while the world wide web is flooded with tips on how to prevent the physical aging process, as the popular expression goes, “Aging is all in your mind.” Healthy mental aging is just as important as keeping wrinkles at bay. Here is a list of 10 tips for healthy mental aging:
1. Exercise. Physical activity increases oxygen-rich blood flow to your brain, essential for keeping it young. Older adults who exercise are 60% less likely to get dementia, according to www.healthyaging.net.
2. Keep learning. A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age. You don’t have to go for that PhD to reap the benefits. Take a couple of classes or a seminar to learn a new skill, or volunteer.
3. Get a new hobby. Just like the body, the brain needs stimulation to stay young. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new hobby, National Healthy Aging Month is a great time to start.
4. Prioritize your brain use. Take advantage of calendars, planners, shopping lists and address books. Designate a place for common items like your keys, glasses and purse. If you don’t have to spend your mental energy trying to remember where you put your glasses or what time your dentist appointment is next week, you can better concentrate on learning and remembering new things.
5. Eat a healthy diet. The benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and other whole foods are numerous and will keep you mentally healthy as you age. If you don’t already eat a healthy diet, try adding a few servings of produce every day and notice the difference in your physical energy levels and mental alertness.
6. Don’t buy into the myths. There is something to be said for the expression “You’re only as old as you feel.” Myths about aging can contribute to a failing memory. Middle-aged and older people do worse on memory tasks after being exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory loss, but do better when the messages are positive. If you believe you can age healthy mentally, you will make more of an effort to do so.
7. Visit your friendly mental health therapist. Mental illness ages us, both in body and brain. If you have noticed some troubling mental issues and haven’t contacted a Dallas psychiatrist, don’t delay setting up an appointment for a consultation. It’s never too late to seek treatment. If you’re feeling lonely, try group therapy.
8. Repeat things you want to remember. When you want to remember something you’ve heard, thought about or read, repeat it out loud or write it down. You will reinforce the memory or connection and wire your brain to remember it.
9. Space out your learning. Repetition is best used as a learning tool when it’s timed properly. Don’t repeat something many times in a short period. Space out your periods of study to give your brain time to “rest” and remember.
10. Use all your senses. The more senses you use in learning something, the more your brain will work to remember it. Challenge all your senses when learning something unfamiliar.
For more advice on healthy aging, contact Dr. Tucker at his Plano office.