The effects that aging has on the brain and memory, in particular, are caused by inconsistencies about how the brain stores information and processes it for recall. And, brain cells need some of the hormones and chemicals that begin to slow down or disappear as you age.
The brain stores information in different ways, depending if it’s for short or long term memory. Short term memory might include someone’s name that you just met at a party and long term memory helps you recall childhood happenings. While short and long term memories aren’t usually affected by aging, recent situations such as where you parked your car in a big parking lot might be.
There are ways that you can help preserve your memory and keep remembering things you need to remember. For example, keep lists of things you need to do and follow a routine as closely as possible is a good way to safeguard your memory. Calendars are a great way to keep track of appointments, bills that are due and places you need to be.
Learn something new – from a table game such as chess to Latin dance classes. Dancing has an added benefit of keeping your body busy as well as your stimulating the mind. Include exercise in your daily health plan and stick to a diet that’s good for your mind and body. Everyone forgets a word they want to use once in awhile, but if this is happening often, practice recalling names, do crossword puzzles and play scrabble to keep a plethora of words in your memory.
Besides the side effects of aging, depression may cause memory loss as can dementia, medications, strokes, amount of alcohol consumed, and the worst – Alzheimer’s disease. If you suspect that any of these situations may be the problem causing your memory loss, see your doctor and be sure to write down all the symptoms so that she can better diagnose the problem.
Memory problems are irritating, but rarely severe. If it begins to affect your lifestyle and the problems begin to seriously permeate your daily existence, don’t hesitate to seek medical help. The sooner your memory problem is diagnosed, the quicker the condition can be improved with the proper help from your health care provider.
There are things you can do to prevent loss of memory caused by aging, including regular exercise. Aerobic exercising can help increase blood supply to the brain, encourage the development of neurons and helps them all to connect properly. Also, a balanced diet can do wonders for your memory. Research has proven that those who eat nutritional diets are smarter than those who frequent a high fat and unhealthy diet.
If you think you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients, take a supplement and to be sure that it benefits your brain, be sure to take folic acid, Vitamins C and E and B6 and B12. All of these lifestyle changes benefit your brain and act as insurance against memory loss. Remember, it’s never too late!
Aging and Your Sense of Smell
As we age, we may experience some problems that affect the body and mind, including a change in our sensory perceptions. Our sense of smell may affect how we eat, enjoy food and drink and also affect the type of nutrients we put in our bodies. Depending on how severe the loss of smell is, it could actually be dangerous if it means we don’t smell hazardous chemicals, gas leaks and smoke.
Our sense of taste is also affected by our sense of smell. If you eat something while holding your nose, you might taste salt, bitterness or sweetness, but you won’t taste the robust flavor of what you’re eating. The sensory perception that affects our sense of smell is call olfaction and this is what weakens when you age.
The fact that you lose sense of taste as you lose sense of smell is especially problematic for seniors. It could result in lack of appetite or of eating foods that aren’t good for you just to try and taste them. Think about how fresh bread baking makes your salivate and then think about how it would be if you couldn’t smell it. Your enthusiasm for eating would certainly wane.
Anyone who needs to control his or her diet may be greatly affected by sense of smell. If the olfactory system quits working or weakens, it’s more difficult to control and stick to a nutritious diet plan and a greater risk of chronic diseases is possible. You might eat less fruits and vegetables because they only seem to taste bitter rather than producing the same great taste they used to have.
Some seniors eat a lot of sweets and food that contain a high volume of fat because they can taste them and tend to eat more than those without a sense of smell problem. These seniors may become overweight or obese and become even more susceptible to dangerous or deadly diseases.
Surprisingly, when you chew food, the flavor of it is recognized in the olfactory bulb that rests behind the bridge of the nose. Seniors who have gum disease or other problems with teeth and gums may not chew as heartily and much of the taste disappears because the flavor never reaches the olfactory bulb.
Sinus problems and blockages of the nasal passages can also interfere with the olfactory bulb and your ability to perceive the taste of foods and your sense of smell. These disorders are often found among seniors and the results may damage certain receptors which can lead to diet problems and eventually, immunity problems.
Cancer patients, especially those who have had chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery could possible go through a cycle of damaged sense of smell and a reluctance to eat a proper diet because of lack of appetite or damaged sense of taste.
Research has found that spices and herbs don’t help with the taste of foods when a person loses their sense of smell. There’s no way to restore olfaction, but you can balance the problem by choosing natural sweeteners, powerful herbs and spices and by taking vitamin and mineral supplements.
Aging Gracefully – With Exercise
There are many reasons that senior citizens should exercise on a regular basis, but the main one is that it helps to increase your overall health and ward off life-threatening diseases – especially those associated with aging. Simply put – exercising helps us age more gracefully.
Almost everyone knows the sort of problems we face when aging – slower metabolism, bone loss and stiffness in joints, muscle loss, balance problems, less endurance and heart and lung problems. We all want a quick fix to aging, such as injections and facelifts or a pill we can take to halt or reduce the aging process. But, in reality, regular exercise is the only thing we can do for ourselves that will increase our overall health and well-being.
Exercise can help us maintain the ability to do things we love and to accomplish everyday tasks that we need to do rather than depending on someone else. Even if you’re a very out of shape senior citizen, there are simple exercises you can do that will make you feel better and enjoy your life.
Stretching is simple to do (you can even stretch while sitting) and can make remarkable strides in improving your joints and muscles. You can find online stretching exercises, choose from the many television shows that promote exercising or get a book from the library or bookstore. You’ll want to be sure to choose exercises that stretch your back, arms, calves, thighs, stomach and chest – but don’t overdo it. Stretch for 5 to 20 minutes per day or whatever you feel up to.
Any activity that increases your endurance is great for senior citizens. Those exercises might include gardening, biking, swimming or simply walking the dog. Try to increase your breathing and heart rate, but don’t exercise so strenuously that you lose your ability to talk. Take it easy and you’ll benefit more than you realize.
Strength exercises are very important to engage in as you age. The more you can strengthen your muscles, the better able you’ll be to increase your metabolism (maintain a normal weight) and keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Strength exercises can be in the form of machines at a gym or fitness center – or, you can even use items around the house, such as books and cans of food.
Exercises designed to strengthen your back should be an important part of your exercise program. Back pain can be excruciating and life-changing and is common in senior citizens. Ask your doctor for a list of exercises you can do to strengthen back muscles or research on your own to find some that are right for you.
One of the worst maladies that can affect senior citizens is balance problems. Aging can cause loss of balance, but so can certain medications. There are exercises to specifically build your leg muscles and increase your perception of balance so that you’re less likely to fall. Keep in mind that in the United States, hospitals admit over 400,000 people per year for broken hips – and most are senior citizens.
Depression and Aging
The longer we live, the more likely we are to suffer life-changing situations and grief in our lives that might bring on bouts of depression. We’re more vulnerable to changes and sometimes don’t have the energy or the money or any other means to change situations that happen to upend our lives.
Most elderly depression occurs when there is separation or loss. There’s a feeling of helplessness – especially if aging leads to poverty and isolation. Even a bout of bad weather may cause depression if an elderly person feels “stuck.” The elderly are certainly more vulnerable than the rest of the population and as physical and environmental changes lead to isolation, depression may occur.
There are a couple types of depression that you should be aware of. Short-term depression occurs in most all of us at some time or other in our lives, but severe depression is more serious and may require some type of medical care or intervention. Severe depression is when the feelings become so agonizing that it extends to every area of life, and the person suffering may think that there’s no solution.
The depression may be so severe that reason or encouragement from others can’t penetrate the wall of sadness that forms a shell around the victim. There are a number of “depression guides” online and quizzes that you can take to test your level of depression, but that should also be possible by using a bit of introspection. When you examine your mind and soul, you should be able to discern whether or not you’re depressed.
You may be depressed if you feel sad and lonely and can’t seem to shake the feeling, or you might have trouble sleeping and become irritable. You may eat too much or lack any kind of appetite at all and you also may have problems in focusing on anything you’re doing or planning to do. Crying uncontrollably and often is also a symptom of depression.
Everyone may suffer from the above depression symptoms at some point, but when the feelings become deep and dark and the victim begins to lose self-confidence, energy, emotions run rampant, no sex drive and an intense mood changes that result in loss of interest in everything that he or she once cared for, the depression may be severe and counseling or medication may be in order.
Any type or symptom of depression that could last for years is called Dysthymic disorder and may cause physical health problems sooner or later if not treated. Reactive depression is a depressed state caused by stress or a situation in life. Bipolar disorder is a type of depression in which a person has severe mood swings from low to high — and possible other symptoms.
Thinking about death and even attempted suicide is a major and concerning part of severe depression. See your health care provider if you experience these thoughts. Depression can be treated.
Eating Right and Aging
As you age, food choices become important daily decisions that may affect the quality of the rest of your life. Seniors need fewer calories, and everything you eat should be based on weight gain and the nutrients that can maintain or boost your immune system and keep you healthy. Too much added weight and not enough vitamins and minerals can cause untold health problems.
Choose your foods to make sure you’re getting enough of the following vitamins and minerals:
· B-Vitamins – Seniors need to be sure they eat lots of foods with B-vitamins. Vitamin-B12 isn’t found in plants, but you can get it in your diet if you eat fortified breakfast cereals. Tuna, lean beef, chicken and eggs also provide vitamin-B12, but if you don’t eat enough of these foods, be sure to take a supplement.
Vitamin-B6 is also an important vitamin for seniors. B6 vitamins can be found in foods that provide protein such as pork, fish and chicken. Again, fortified cereals can be a great source of vitamin B-6. Bananas, spinach, wheat germ and bran are among other sources for vitamin B6.
· Vitamin-A – Cantaloupe, carrots, Brussels sprouts, peppers and most colorful plant products are rich in beta-carotene, which provides vitamin-A. Fish liver oil, eggs and fortified milk are also abundant in vitamin-A. If you don’t think you’re getting enough vitamin-A in your diet, talk to your doctor before taking a supplement as it can form toxic levels in your body.
· Folic Acid – A synthetic form of folate, folic acid can be found in foods such as fortified cereal, enriched breads and some grains. Foods containing folate are bananas, asparagus, turnip greens, spinach wheat germ and orange juice.
· Riboflavin – Milk, yogurt, eggs and whole grains are rich in riboflavin. Milk should be purchased in cardboard cartons rather than glass or plastic containers because it loses much of the vitamin from exposure to light. Other food sources high in riboflavin are asparagus, turkey, almonds and chicken thighs.
Some other vitamins that should be included in the foods seniors should be eating are vitamins C, D and E and choline. Eating a diet that’s balanced with these vitamins and minerals is best, but if it’s difficult for you to eat a balanced diet on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about supplements.
As you age, it’s important to fill up with foods that contain vitamins and minerals that will help us to maintain a healthy immune system and provide you with the best caloric intake rather than foods rich in sugar, fat and not much else. Eating right can help us age gracefully and live longer.