One of the greatest fears is the slow decline of aging.
The physical body, of course, but perhaps more notable is the decline of the mind and its ability to function as it did when we were in our prime.
Many of us fear we might become absent-minded later in life, or worse, develop something like dementia or Alzheimer’s. In a way, even a minor loss of memory makes us feel as though we’re losing a part of ourselves. And being bed-ridden or stuck in a home? No way.
It’s a scary thought. However, it is possible to “slow the aging process down” and stay sharp and strong well into your golden years.
Keep your blood clean, your body lean, and your mind sharp.
– Henry Rollins
Here are six ways to to do so:
1. Challenge yourself
Perhaps the number one most important way to slow down mental decline specifically is to never stop learning. A higher level of education is associated with better cognitive function well into old age, so you’re slowing down the aging process right now. You’re welcome.
Always be challenging yourself to learn something new or do something you’ve never done before. Learn a new language, play chess or complex video games, read heaps of books, or take a class on gardening, a type of art, or another subject you’ve always wanted to learn. Challenge your mind somehow.
Whatever you do, never stop learning, growing, and developing your mind. Make it a lifelong passion.
2. Reduce stress
You know all that stress you’ve been having for the past few years? You might want to do something about it– because it’s doing something to you.
Occasional stress doesn’t do much. In fact, it can help us stay alert and actually improve bodily functions in some cases. However, chronic stress is a whole different monster.
Chronic stress has the ability to kill neurons and worsen the brain shrinkage that occurs with old age. Yes, it shrinks the brain. So, take a minute to research some ways you can combat all that chronic stress and work on unrooting the source of it.
3. Strength train
It’s widely known that regular physical exercise promotes good health as we age and reduces the chance of developing countless diseases, in addition to making us happier and more stress-free.
However, strength training more specifically is very important for helping maintain the integrity of our body, essentially slowing the aging process down by helping us maintain our physical strength and mobility.
Plus, all it takes is as little as ten to fifteen minutes of slow repetitions on a challenging weight three or so times a week to get a good workout in.
4. Create an efficient environment for memory conservation
All those digital calendars and reminder apps we use are good for something, after all! Aside from helping us plan our daily life and remember particular events, they free up mental energy, reducing some of the strain placed on the mind and allowing us to then place that mental energy elsewhere.
So, create an environment of efficiency where you place your keys (and as many other things as well) in the same place so you never have to remember where to look and, if you don’t already, use a reminder app to help remind you of scheduled events.
Better yet, develop a system so you have one central place you can go to see all of this and a method for tracking it.
5. Maintain a diet rich in antioxidants
Studies have shown that eating foods with lots of antioxidants help improve memory and cognitive function.
- Dark chocolate
- Kidney beans
In addition, you could try supplements such as natural nootropics that report improving memory, however, they’ve yet to be approved or confirmed to work by the FDA, so keep that in mind.
6. Don’t buy into the myth
Okay, clearly aging isn’t a myth. However, the idea that we decline as we age is somewhat a misconception.
According to Marcas Bamman, director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “our lab and others have shown repeatedly that older muscles will grow and strengthen,” with Bamman and associates proving that men and women as old as seventy can develop muscles as strong as adults in their early forties.
In addition, negative stereotypes about aging actually make us perform worse on memory tests (and better vice versa), proving that part of the problem is belief about aging.
The point is this: old age isn’t exactly what we’ve been led to believe, so be careful buying into common knowledge about it.