Staying Mentally Fit

A survey of AARP members shows that 87% of people 50 and older are very concerned about keeping their mental abilities. If that includes you, there’s hope. First, a recent study shows that the overall number of cases of dementia (including Alzheimer’s) in the 65-plus population dropped from 11.9% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012. Second, there are things you can do to improve your chances for keeping your brain sharp.

Part of the reason for the rate of dementia going down is that more people are living active lives that include a healthy diet, social engagement, and exercise. The journal of the American Society on Aging reports that adopting a healthy lifestyle—eating well, having meaningful social relationships, and exercising, as well as engaging in lifelong learning—are important to healthy aging and to promoting brain health.

Since there is no effective cure for the various forms of dementia, the best thing to do is take steps to delay or slow cognitive decline. One of those steps is physical activity. Nearly a third of adults are not aware that regular exercise is critical to maintaining brain health. Yet more and more studies show that staying physically active helps reduce the risk of chronic disease while helping us keep our mental sharpness. Those who regularly exercise report improved memory, attention span, planning ability, and decision making.

The easiest way to invite dementia is to avoid exercise. To continue making excuses. But the costs are much greater than the effort it takes to make time to walk. To get out of the chair and move around. To dance, do housework, or garden. Even those with limited mobility can benefit from a little movement. It adds quality to your life and years to your life as well.

The Institute of Medicine in its 2015 report identified that higher levels of physical activity is the number one thing individuals can do to protect their cognitive health. So get moving. As you boost your cardiovascular health through increased exercise, you’ll improve your ability to stay mentally fit. You are worth it!

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