There are plenty of activities and exercises you can do to improve your brain health, but did you know you may be doing things to actually hurt your efforts?
You are most likely doing these things without realizing the potential damage they can cause. Here are some of the common mistakes that can hurt senior brain health and what you can do about them.
Mistake No. 1: Chalking It Up to a “Senior Moment”
Sure, we all get a word on the tip of our tongue we just can’t think of, or sometimes forget where we put our car keys. But as we age, indulging in the stereotype that seniors are just forgetful can actually make memory problems worse.
Research from the USC Davis School of Gerontology confirmed what is called the stereotype threat, when people are confronted with negative stereotypes about a group with which they identify (such as forgetful seniors), they tend to self-handicap and underperform.
Take note of these instances happening, especially if they become more frequent. Don’t just dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Talk to your doctor about your forgetfulness to determine the right course of action for you.
Mistake No. 2: Using Certain Medicines for Too Long
Another study has found that using common medicines for prolonged periods can harm the brains of older adults. Over-the-counter medicines that are anticholinergics — such as Unisom, Dimetapp and Benadryl — have been linked to physical changes in the brain, increasing the risk of dementia.
If you are taking any of these types of medicines, some alternatives do not pose such a strong risk. Talk to your doctor about prolonged medicine use and what the best alternative is for you and your health conditions that will not affect your cognitive function.
Mistake No. 3: Not Getting Enough Sleep
While adults tend to sleep less as they age, not getting your eight hours can be harming your memory and overall cognitive abilities. Brain growth occurs during sleep, and a neural process associated with learning and memory also occurs, making adequate amounts of sleep essential for older adults.
Try taking a short nap during the day, as this can help you meet your sleep quota and restore your brain power. If you wake up feeling tired or fall asleep during the day, your body may need more than the recommended eight hours of sleep.
Mistake No. 4: Eating Late at Night
While a midnight snack is OK every now and then, regular late-night meals when you’re supposed to be sleeping can hurt your memory. It disrupts the normal cycle for the hippocampus and causes deficiencies.
It’s important to keep mealtime and bedtime separate, and allow enough time between them for food to digest.
It’s fair to say that the occasional indulgence of a senior moment, late-night snack, sleepless night or medicine use should not have a profound impact on your brain health. It’s when these situations become a regular part of your lifestyle that you will start to suffer from their effects.
For more ways to live healthfully and age in your own home, check out our guide, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.