January 13, 2021
What is Brain Health and Why it Matters
Our understanding of aging is expanding every day as researchers and scientists the world over dedicate their work to improving the lives of older adults. The more we know, the more clearly we see that our day-to-day activities can build on each other toward a confident, independent life—or they can do the opposite, leading to a surefire loss of independence. It may seem obvious, but it’s important to help older adults see the cause-and-effect cycles by their daily routines.
For example, two recent studies point to the importance of brain health in maintaining a positive outlook and protecting from dementia. Previous research links a positive outlook with not only better cognitive control, but also physical health like lower blood pressure and less heart disease. What’s more, research has already proven that exercise boosts verbal memory and learning.
If maintaining overall independence is important to the older adults in your life, take some advice from the experts and help them work in day-to-day activities and routines that challenge the mind.
What we know
Let’s take a closer look at the recent studies linking healthy brains with positive mood. Researchers from the Hillblom Aging Network analyzed executive function (the ability to perform complex tasks like planning and decision-making) and images of the brain’s white matter (which affects our ability to think, walk and balance). They compared the results with changing mood levels – demonstrating that brain health plays an important role in staying positive as one ages.
Another study, published in 2018 in the renowned medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, proved that regular intellectual activities like reading books or playing card games significantly lowered risk of dementia. This massive study followed more than 15,000 older adults over a period of about five years.
Five Ideas to Boost Brain Health
Here are a few creative ways to boost brain health in one’s daily routine:
1. Try an app or game designed for mental acuity but beware of stealthy pop-up ads or in-app purchase offers that often show up in the free versions. When you find one you like, consider buying the premium version.
2. Take on a project such as writing a memoir, planning for a family gathering or volunteering in the community.
3. Join a book club or card game group, both of which can be done virtually with the help of user-friendly and free conferencing platforms.
4. Use Internet time wisely. Seniors are particularly susceptible to the “doom scroll,” that social media trick that leads to hours of meaningless content consumption. Instead, make a list of topics that actually interest you, say, touring the Mayan ruins or finding out where your great grandparents emigrated.
5. You guessed it… exercise! It’s never too late to start exercising. In fact, studies show the protective effects of exercise are highest in those over age 75.
Physical activity and cognitive intactness are scientifically proven to impact independence among older adults. Service providers across the U.S. have adopted PFMIpro to track these and other risk factors, empowering professional caregivers to deliver appropriate support and data-driven updates to care teams and loved ones. With real time reporting capabilities, agency administrators can also track and report critical performance metrics to funding sources. Connect with the experts and request a demo at www.pfmipro.com.
Cotter DL, et al.; the Hillblom Aging Network. Aging and positive mood: longitudinal neurological and cognitive correlates. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2020;28(9):946-0956. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2020.05.002.
Allen T. C. Lee, MBChB1; Marcus Richards, PhD2; Wai C. Chan, MBChB3; et al.; Association of Daily Intellectual Activities With Lower Risk of Incident Dementia Among Older Chinese Adults. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(7):697-703. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0657