What is Cognitive Decline and What Can Be Done About It?

Mental Fitness

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Man walking dog

What is Cognitive Decline? Cognitive Health refers to the health of our brain.  Cognitive decline, therefore refers to the decline, or worsening of  this health:  Forgetfulness, “senile moments…”

The most important thing you should remember today is this, forgetfulness is not a normal part of aging. If you or someone you love are in their 5os, 60s, or beyond – it’s a fact that  you  should remind yourself of regularly.  One in four older adults DO, unfortunately, experience Cognitive Decline but it is not a normal part of aging.

Think of it this way.  If you go into McDonald’s on a Saturday afternoon, 1 out of  every 4 kids may be overweight, but it isn’t just “part of being a kid.”  It’s the result of too much fast food and too little activity!  Ironically, the very things that contribute to an overweight child in McDonald’s can contribute to an adult experiencing Cognitive Decline.

I’ve recently read several articles pointing fingers at a typical fast food diet as being hideous for one’s brain (as well as their body).   Apparently fries are the main culprit – that’s nothing that any of us want to hear, is it?

When it comes to things we can all do to prevent experiencing cognitive decline, physical activity is always at the top of each expert’s list.  Simply become more active!

It doesnt’ matter if you’re 16 or 60, you should be more active than you currently are.  You’ll feel better, think better, look better, sleep better – live better.  Where’s the down side?  I’m very, very fortunate to live in an area where I can get out and walk or ride a bike each and every day – or night, for that matter.  I’m also lucky to have a built in walking and biking partner – my oldest daughter, Emily.  We serve to spur one another on  and I can honestly say I’d be up a creek without her.  It’s just not as fun to walk alone.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a built in walking companion, here are a few suggestions.  When school starts back up and Emily is gone during much of the day, I’ll be resorting to these as well.

  • If you live in a safe area, just lace them up and take off – even if you’re flying solo.  If  you’re used to walking with someone else, the quiet may be deafening for a few minutes.  Just fill the quiet with plenty of loud thinking… thinking’s almost always a good thing!
  • When you go to the store, take several laps around the entire store before you actually grab what you need.  You can actually sneak in a 30 minute walk each time you visit your favorite department store.  During the winter, I always see “regulars” getting their walking in at our local Wal-Mart.
  • Walk at the mall – countless people do, especially in the morning.
  • If you live near a safe park with a walking trail, take full advantage of it.
  • If you have several errands to run – park as far away from each stopping point as possible.  Every step counts, after all.
  • And the number one tip I can  think of for getting more walking exercise?  Get a dog! (IF, of course, you are a dog lover and have every intention of giving her a great home.)  A dog will keep you honest!  You’ll find yourself making certain that she’s treated to her walk each and every day, whether it’s warm, cold, rainy or sunny.  In the process, of course, you’re treating yourself to the activity you need as well.

For your mind and body, make “Get Moving!” your new favorite phrase.

Make each step count double,
~ Joi

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3 comments… add one
  • I am frequently asked what the difference is between memory changes associated with normal aging and that related to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). First, the memory changes associated with normal aging are not a disease. The typical pattern of memory change with advanced age is a deficit in retrieval. A healthy older brain can encode information because the hippocampus is relatively healthy. This permits new information to be encoded. The older adult has some difficulty retrieving that new information, but with cues and prompts they retrieve the information as well as those in their thirties.

    In contrast, a brain with AD has a damaged hippocampus that prevents new information from being encoded. This means that new learning does not take place and that cures and prompts do not help because the information is not there to be prompted.

    In general, a healthy older adult encodes new information, but needs some help in retrieving what has been encoded. A brain with AD does not encode new information and therefore cues and prompts will not help with retrieval.

    Dr. Paul Nussbaum

  • Joi,
    I so appreciate this post as someone who is in her mid-fifties and having moments of forgetfulness. Gentleness to self, compassion, is key. ???? I’ve just posted on Mental Fitness at my blog, a post which companions this one so well—though the focus is on how to create a morning and evening routine to keep our mind peaceful and at ease. Perhaps you will stop by. Blessings to you, as always!

  • Roman Link

    Walking every day will prevent forgetfulness but you should take another steps to prevent it:
    1. Play memory games (you can do this online with http://www.Mind360.com)
    2. Eating nuts with Omega 3.

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