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Prevent mental illness in older adults

Seniors sharing by Nutmeg Senior Riders

What happens to our brains as we age?

Aging is a natural process in which the body undergoes physiological changes that are not indicative of any disease but alter certain neurological functions.

But what happens to the brain as it ages? From a structural point of view, it loses neurons and synapses, which leads to a reduced capacity for reflex reaction. On the other hand, the learned response, which is spontaneous, such as the one we exercise when typing, is preserved longer because it responds to the brain's capacity to act in advance, which we call anticipation.

A decrease in neuronal plasticity also hinders learning, although this can be compensated for with previous experience and resources. On the other hand, the loss of neurons in structures such as the cerebellum reduces agility, and the reduction of those responsible for controlling muscle tone reduces reflexes.

Factors that influence our mental health

Increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar can cause deterioration of large and small blood vessels, setting off a cascade of complications that reduce cerebral blood flow. For example, high blood pressure, which affects about one in three American adults, is notorious for damaging the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart and brain.

The damage can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits, atherosclerosis, and associated clotting. Experts believed that the problems with thinking caused by Alzheimer's disease and other similar diseases were independent of stroke. Over time, researchers have learned that the same risk factors for stroke are also risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and possibly for other neurodegenerative disorders.

The recommendation also acknowledges that it is important to follow guidelines previously issued by the American Heart Association, the Institute of Medicine, and the Alzheimer's Association, including managing cardiovascular risks and suggesting social engagement and other related strategies to maintain brain health.

Dementia is expensive to treat. According to estimates, direct care costs are higher than for cancer and about the same for heart disease. In addition, the value of unpaid care for dementia patients can exceed $200 billion a year. As lives grow longer in the United States and elsewhere, about 75 million people worldwide could have dementia by 2030.

Policymakers will need to allocate health resources for mental illnesses, especially in old age. Monitoring dementia rates in places where public health efforts are improving heart health. This information could provide important details about the success of a mental approach and the future need for health resources for the elderly.

Tips to prevent mental illnesses

  • Sleeping and eating well are the key to a healthy old age

The benefits of a good sleep regimen are well known, but perhaps not so well known that they can also be crucial to brain health in aging and overall well-being. Studies show that insomnia is associated with poorer cognition and memory, while adequate nighttime sleep, and even the habit of napping, is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline.

Moreover, research also links healthy eating to better cognitive function in old age. However, experts warn that, in general, evidence is scarce when attributing these benefits to specific nutrients or compounds. Hence, they recommend being cautious in assessing commercial products' claims and sticking to proven healthy habits such as the Mediterranean diet.

  • Regular physical exercise

When practicing sport, the muscles secrete a series of chemical substances that are sent through the blood to the brain. Among them is the protein IGF-1, which is responsible for increasing the production of neurotransmitters. Scientists have found that one of these neurotransmitters, BDNF, plays an essential role. It is heavily involved in the formation of the entire nervous system of the fetus, of those circuits responsible for cognitive functions.

By practicing the sport regularly, BDNF levels in the brain increase, which causes nerve cells to begin to diversify, join together, and communicate with each other in new ways. Therefore, it increases the plastic capacity of the brain and enhances all functions related to thinking.

  • Daily mental exercise

Use your brain or lose it as with muscles, which atrophy if not used. The brain must be exercised to keep it in shape. The ideal is to reach retirement age in an optimal state of mental capacity and continue to maintain it. In addition to physical exercise, it is necessary to stimulate the mind intellectually with new challenges. The brain is based on a law of nature's economy of only maintaining in good condition what it uses. Hence, some connections are lost because keeping them active is too costly at an energetic level for the organism.

Many people believe that it stimulates the brain. It is enough to do crossword puzzles and sudoku, read the newspaper, listen to music, or attend exhibitions. And that's all well and good, but our neurons need mental challenges that make them do their best to obtain rewards. Challenges that require them to be constantly alert. For example, learning to play an instrument or a new language can be a motivating task, which provides pleasure and for which you get recognition and applause from family and friends. It generates personal satisfaction and confidence in oneself and one's intellectual abilities. It is, therefore, an excellent way to keep our brains in shape.

  • Improving cholesterol levels

Elevated LDL cholesterol levels, known as bad cholesterol, are a risk factor for developing dementia. A healthy diet, exercise, weight control, and not smoking will help achieve this goal.

  • Cultivate emotional intelligence

It is necessary to manage our feelings and emotions. Dealing with depression or anxiety is fundamental to overcoming emotional problems. If we have better emotional intelligence, we will avoid mental diseases.

  • Improving blood sugar levels

For the development of dementia, diabetes is a significant risk factor that we have to consider. Exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and proper weight is key to preventing and controlling diabetes.

At Nutmeg Senior Rides, we help you to go everywhere you need. If you want to become a member do not hesitate to contact us.

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