Cognitive health refers to our ability to think, focus, learn and remember different things each and every day. These abilities help us perform key daily tasks such as driving, cooking, working and taking care of our finances.
Although age is the biggest contributing factor to cognitive health decline over time, there are many additional risk factors. These can include:
Lack of physical activity
Various health conditions have strong effects on the brain and can subsequently accelerate the risk of cognitive decline. These include:
Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted and brain tissue is deprived of oxygen resulting in cell death. Stoke can cause severe impairment to areas of the brain including those that control various cognitive functions such as decision making, memory and attention.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes high blood sugar and over time this can cause damage to organs and tissues in the body. Studies have linked diabetes with cognitive impairments and declining cognitive function.
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Uncontrolled high blood pressure particularly can cause severe damage to blood vessels and impact brain health in significant ways.
Lack of Physical Activity
Many research studies are showing that physical activity not only contributes greatly to our physical health but also to our cognitive (mental) health. When we neglect exercise and other kinds of physical activity, our bodies are at risk of disease such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes, all which can affect our cognitive health significantly. Most importantly, regular physical exercise keeps the brain young and can even slow down cognitive decline over time.
Eating a well-balanced diet helps keep the brain healthy and functioning well decreasing the risk of serious health problems. Many foods contribute to decline in physical and mental health. Foods high in salt, sugar or fat should be avoided as they increase your risk of heart disease or diabetes. To maintain a healthy diet, it is recommended that plenty of fruits and vegetables are incorporated into your meals each day.
Smoking has been linked to severe health problems such as lung disease, heart attack and cancer to name a few. Cigarettes consists of many toxic compounds including nicotine, which is addictive. There is growing evidence that smokers have an increased risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Preserving your cognitive health can be done by avoiding cigarettes or quitting smoking.
Adequate sleep is crucial to brain health. It is during these periods of rest that the brain gets a chance to recharge and build more connections. Issues with sleep such as inconsistent sleep patterns, inadequate amounts of sleep or sleep disorders like sleep apnea negatively affect your memory, attention and other cognitive abilities. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule or consulting a doctor for help about your sleep disorder will help ensure your brain can stay sharp and focused each day.