Many changes in physical and mental functions follow the aging process. One of those is the cognitive function which enables a person to perform different mental tasks and solve problems. Cognitive changes are normal changes. And as we grow older, changes in our cognition should be expected. Reasons behind these changes vary from genetic factors to bad habits when it comes to your health. Some of the symptoms are confusion, poor judgment, difficulty in the decision-making process or remembering faces as well as bad long- and short-term memory.
Sometimes this happens as a normal consequence of aging, and sometimes the problem is a deficiency of vitamins and minerals which are necessary for healthy mental function. However, we should pay attention as these could all be symptoms of dementia or even Alzheimer’s. If you start noticing some of the changes mentioned above happening to you or anyone you know, there are some things you can do to improve cognition, although you should see a doctor for further diagnosis.
Magnesium is one of the most essential minerals in your body. It helps maintain normal cardiac and pulmonary function, and of course, it’s crucial for maintaining bone density. Since it is present in most cells of our body, it’s also responsible for brain health as well as cognition. Magnesium acts by strengthening bonds between nerve cells and thus enables better long-term memory. It also strengthens the nerve endings responsible for information transfer, so the result is a good short-term memory. Research also shows that Mg helps in the learning process because of its function as a long-term memory booster.
The easiest way to make sure your intake of Mg is high enough is through food and supplements. Some of the foods rich in Mg are spinach, kale, peas, broccoli, different nuts and seeds, avocados, bananas, salmon, tuna and much more. You should include these groceries in your daily meals as the recommended daily intake of Mg is 310-420mg for adults. If, however, you don’t feel like cooking and you want an easier way, the best solution is to introduce supplements into your diet. It is a good idea to choose a magnesium supplement that’s easily absorbed in your body, like Mg-citrate, Mg-lactate, Mg-chloride or Mg-chelate. Make sure to get tested supplements or ask your pharmacist for advice.
Vitamin B-12 is essential for DNA and red blood cells synthesis, as well as enabling nerve cells to send signals through the nervous system. Patients who take a higher amount of B12 have shown slower brain atrophy and nerve degeneration which leads us to the conclusion that this vitamin is also essential for preventing loss of cognitive functions. A B12 deficiency causes Anemia, Chron’s disease, Graves’ disease or different immune disorders. Whatever the reasons may be, there are again natural and supplemented ways to make sure you are getting enough of B12. The best natural way to get B12 is through animal meat such as beef, animal liver, clams, tuna, and salmon.
Vitamins and minerals are just one aspect which can help you improve your mental health. We shouldn’t forget about the benefits meditation has on calmness, serenity and overall health. Many studies also suggest it as one of the best ways to boost your cognition. Meditation is something you can do at home, and it doesn’t have to take up much of your time. One of the most effective methods for concentration is Samatha meditation, in which you focus on a single mental object and/or sensation.
If you are new to meditation techniques, here are some tips to make it work. Choose a place that you feel relaxed in, and set the duration. At first, you should start with 15 minutes or so. Make sure you have the right posture that will make you breathe in and out easily. Just practice relaxing for a couple of minutes. Concentrate on your breath. You can do it either with open or closed eyes. Choose something that you would like to focus on, and try to keep your attention there.
Don’t worry if at the beginning you lose focus, because that is quite normal. Just direct your attention to the object again. You can choose to think about fire, air, the Earth, whatever makes you feel relaxed. You can develop your meditation technique by increasing the time from week to week. The benefits are numerous starting from increased concentration, reduced stress and overthinking, invoking positive thoughts and even boosting your immune system.
Sleep is the time our bodies regenerate and rest. Life in the 21st century has become very stressful and sleep is almost the only time our bodies and minds can recuperate. Sleep duration has lessened significantly due to longer work hours, many activities during the day and fast-paced lives in general.
REM sleep is a phase where our brains are most awake. As we grow older, REM sleep shortens. As adults, we have a couple of REM phases during the night which can last from 10 minutes to an hour. Since this phase happens approximately 90 minutes after we go to sleep, it is essential to get the right amount of sleep to feel rested. eep in order to feel rested.
So, you should sleep 3 or 6 hours if you can’t sleep longer because otherwise, you would interrupt the REM phase. Interrupted sleep leads to building up of amyloid proteins. The build-up of amyloid proteins is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Migraines, reduced coping skills, weight increase, and many more symptoms are also a consequence of interrupted REM sleep.
You can not escape the consequences of aging. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up. By following these tips, you can improve your health and prolong your life. After all, you know how people say “better safe than sorry.”
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Lauren Laporte blogs at ripped.me, mostly about health and wellbeing. She’s passionate about nature, both its vastness and its healing potential, and believes the danger of losing oneself in the wilderness to be far less pressing than the danger of having no wilderness to get lost in. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter.