Brain health is different from mental health. Mental health relates to your psychological wellness and how you feel about your life. Brain health, on the other hand, refers to your ability to think clearly, learn and remember, as well as your motor control, which is your ability to control your body movements. Some level of cognitive decline, forgetfulness and decrease in motor functions is common as you get older and not necessarily an immediate cause for concern. There are measures you can take to exercise your brain and help prevent further decline. And there are also warning signs for when something more serious might be happening.
Keep It Keen
While some aspects of brain health are out of your control, there are many healthy brain habits that you can adopt to keep your brain at peak performance. These include:
- Learning a new skill. Taking up a new interest or hobby, like quilting or photography, helps you develop new pathways in your brain’s structure.
- Playing games. Puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku and chess engage your short-term memory and help maintain your recall abilities.
- Finding meaningful activities. Doing things like volunteering, adopting or fostering a pet or finding a passion project help you attach meaning to your daily life, which helps your brain stay engaged and you to feel motivated.
- Staying active. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
- Reading. Whether you read books or magazines, fiction or nonfiction, audio or print, reading can keep you curious and learning throughout your life.
Taking care of your physical and emotional help can also support your cognitive health. Get information and resources on staying active and maintaining your psychological well-being.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Regardless of how actively you keep your brain engaged, there are serious cognitive impairments that you may face. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia can be scary and cause you to feel lost and uncertain. At Banner Health, we understand these feelings and are here to help you navigate this uncertainty so that you are never alone as you face what’s next.
Learn more about our Alzheimer's services.
Alzheimer’s Warning Signs
Some lapses in memory are an expected part of aging. Understanding the differences between normal forgetfulness and signs that there could be something more serious can help put your mind at ease and help you to know when it’s time to seek help. Some of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s include:
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks, like driving to the grocery store, organizing a to-do list or taking out the trash. Needing assistance with more complicated or uncommon tasks, like working a TV remote is normal and not concerning.
- Confusion with time and place, like which month it is or how they got somewhere. Forgetting which day of the week it is, is generally not a cause for concern.
- Difficulty with depth-perception and spatial processing that is not caused by cataracts, which often impacts things like balance, reading and driving.
- New problems with speaking that go beyond forgetting a particular word. Abruptly stopping in the middle of a conversation or repeating the same thing over and over again are warning signs.
- Not taking care of regular activities like personal hygiene and housekeeping.
- Withdrawing from social activities that used to be a source of joy.
- Changes in mood or personality, which are often caused by the fear and anxiety that can accompany Alzheimer’s.
Early detection matters. Even though there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are many treatments that can help you live longer and happier.