MAINTAINING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AS YOU GET OLDER



As we get older, we all notice that we’re not quite as ‘sharp’ as we used to be. Generally speaking, this is nothing to worry about; it’s perfectly normal, but can nevertheless be a concern.

According to a report by the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering, there are three things we can do for ourselves to stave off the onset of dementia, which has increased by a staggering 55% in the U.S. since 1999.

EXERCISE – Not only good for the body, exercise is good for the brain too.

BLOOD PRESSURE – Maintaining a normal blood pressure is vital for all the organs of the body. It is estimated that one in three of us have abnormal blood pressure, which can be a killer. High or low blood pressure often carries few symptoms, so it is best to get it checked regularly by your doctor. People with high blood pressure (hypertension) are at greater risk of heart disease and strokes. A single tablet, taken once a day, can often be a solution for the problem.

BRAIN TRAINING – When we give up work and go into retirement, it is all too easy to go into a state of mental decline. Like every organ in your body, the brain needs exercise in order to keep it healthy, so doing ‘brain exercises’ – such as learning a new language or doing complicated crossword puzzles – can often be helpful, but this has yet to be conclusively proven.

The Alzheimer’s Association agrees that more research is needed, but they recommend that people should challenge their brains to maintain good brain health.

DIET – Brain scans have revealed that eating plenty of salmon, sardines and mackerel prevents Alzheimer’s disease by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish, increase blood in the regions of the brain that control memory and learning, both of which are gradually destroyed by the neurological disorder.

People who eat a lot of oily fish in their diet are also considerably better at acquiring and understanding new information. In addition, it also boosts our overall mental and emotional well-being.

It is estimated that, as we live longer lives, as many as one in three of us will contract the disease.

The fantasy author, Sir Terry Pratchett, died at the age of 66, eight years after having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Sir Terry approached the diagnosis with a pragmatic sense of humour.

Knighted in 2009, he said: “It would appear to me that me getting up and saying ‘I’ve got Alzheimer’s’, it did shake people.”

“The thing about Alzheimer’s is there are few families that haven’t been touched by the disease.”

“People come up to me and talk about it and burst into tears; there’s far more awareness about it, and that was really what I hoped was going to happen.”

If you feel that your memory is in decline, the best thing to do is to go to your GP and discuss your concerns. If they agree with you and feel that you may be developing the symptoms of the disease, they will send you to a specialist for cognitive testing.

While it is a desperately worrying and unpleasant illness to bear, for which there is no cure, early diagnosis can often help to slightly delay the process and help you cope on an emotional level.

There is plenty of help out there, so all you need to do is seek it out.

For further information on this subject, visit the Alzheimer’s Society or Dementia UK.


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