|Preventing Cognitive Decline with Mental Stimulation (study summary)|
|With the increasing global concern surrounding dementia and related cognitive problems in the elderly, being able to successfully prevent these issues is of great importance. JAMA Neurology conducted a study to research the effects of various forms of mental stimulation on cognitive delays in elderly participants. The study found several forms of mental stimulation that can reduce the risks of cognitive problems in the elderly. For instance, playing games and participating in regular social events was found to decrease the risk of cognitive delay by more than 20%. While participating in crafting activities can lower the risk by 28%, and learning to use a computer can reduce the risk as much as 30%. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by choosing to eat healthy and exercise regularly has also been proven in many studies to reduce cognitive delay. Combining this with regular mental stimulation is a great way to help reduce the risks even further. According to Dr. Denise Park of the University of Texas, participating in new activities or tasks may be more effective than the repetition of familiar activities in preventing cognitive problems. Overall, it is important for older adults to participate in mentally stimulating activities and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise. This may prove to be their best defense against cognitive decline.
SO THE QUESTION IS… how do you do this today during a world-wide pandemic. Easier than you think. The first thing you have to do is GET OFF THE COUCH! Do you think that the impression you want to leave on the world is a dent in the sofa? The second thing you have to do is flatten the fear. By this I mean that with the increase of vaccinations, and the high percentage of people who have not contracted the virus after a year, you can still meet with other people six feet apart, with a mask and with sanitized hands. I have mentioned before how important it is to boost your Vitamin D3 levels, first with sunlight and secondly with supplementation. One study found that well over three quarters of people infected with the coronavirus were deficient in Vitamin D. Also, viruses cannot live in ultraviolet (UV) light, along with bacteria, fungi and mold, so getting some sunlight every day is very important.
Stimulation of the mind includes social interaction, playing games, learning a language, playing or learning music. It is not enough to just sit and read or watch TV all day; that’s babysitting, not mental stimulation (there are exceptions). I know plenty of people who gather in a neighbor’s front yard or driveway and have “cocktail hour” and I know others who have “backyard concerts” every other week. Also, how hard would it be to be tutored by someone in music or a language? Two people can meet easily and safely. If you ever expect us to return to some form of normalcy, then you have to start stepping outside the house and do something. You must stimulate you mind.
There are still yard sales to visit, outdoor concerts to attend, games to play with three or four friends. Besides mental stimulation, this also helps fight loneliness and depression. This is a topic for another day, but please understand that any depression, anxiety, loneliness you are feeling is primarily coming from the lack of personal connection; no face to face, and no touching (let alone hugging) with friends and family. Wise words were shared by my friend Skip N., who is well into his 80’s, “Exercising is good. Exercising with friends is better.”
I’m telling you right now, “get out!” In a positive way, of course. Dr. Ben