How To Improve Brain Aging With Life Goals

Sunrise Senior Living  |  June 30, 2015
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As seniors age, their brains become vulnerable to cognitive decline. The number of older adults with memory-loss diseases like Alzheimer's is growing every year. In fact, the Alzheimer's Association explained that while currently over 5 million seniors in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease, by 2025, experts predict that more than 7 million people will be impacted. Older adults should work to ensure healthy brain aging with stimulating activities and life goals. 

Of the 5.3 million people impacted by Alzheimer's disease, approximately 5.1 million are over the age of 65, according to the Alzheimer's Association. This highlights the brain's slow decline throughout the aging process. Seniors can actively work to reduce the progression of cognitive decline with a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of sleep.

One of the most important aspects of maintaining healthy cognitive function is keeping the brain stimulated through social and educational activities. Setting life goals is an effective way to ensure that seniors continue to engage in healthy challenges that benefit their brains.

"Finding meaning in life through goals and challenges can improve cognitive health."

Why is setting life goals important?
In a recent study, researchers discovered that finding meaning in life through goals and challenges can improve cognitive health. According to the AHA, the scientists assessed the autopsies of 453 seniors who were an average age of 90 when they died. The subjects received mental and physical examinations every year until they died as volunteers for the Rush Memory and Aging Project.  

The results showed that those who had stayed mentally stimulated had healthier brains at the end of their lives. The test subjects who noted that they had found a strong purpose in life were 44 percent less likely to have macroscopic infarcts, which are areas of cellular or tissue death, according to research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. These results remained true even after taking factors like blood pressure, physical activity and diabetes into account.

"Purpose in life differs for everyone and it is important to be thoughtful about what motivates you, [such as volunteering, learning new things, or being part of the community] so you can engage in rewarding behaviors," Lei Yu, Ph.D., study lead author and assistant professor of neurological sciences at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, told the AHA.

What goals work to keep the brain stimulated?
According to Helpguide.org, tasks that include memorization and communication have significant benefits for the brain. For example, learning a new language and playing an instrument are life goals that will result in large deposits in the brain reserves. These activities can also help keep people socially engaged, especially if they attend a class where they're surrounded by other students. 

Learning to play an instrument like the guitar will keep the mind stimulated.Learning to play an instrument like the guitar is an exciting goal that will keep minds stimulated.

Enjoying time with others will help keep adults' minds sharp and focused. Seniors residing at assisted living facilities have access to community programs, while other adults can look into joining local groups or clubs. 

No matter how small the goal may seem, seniors who stay motivated and push themselves to meet their goals, even if it's as simple as reading a new book every week, will find it easier to preserve their mental health as they age. 

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