As people grow older they experience a lot of changes both biologically and psychologically. The old saying goes, “The older you get, the wiser you become.” Unfortunately, for a lot of ageing people, this is not quite the case. Every single day, humans perform a lot of cognitive tasks, consciously or unconsciously. Mental or cognitive abilities change as time progresses with brain maturation, and also with aging of the brain cells and their interconnections. With advancing age, people’s movements and reflexes gradually become slow, and their sense of sight and hearing become weak.
Age-related Changes in Cognitive Function
Changes in cognitive function that are related to age vary among different individuals. However there are certain cognitive changes that can be commonly observed across different people:
Older people show impairments on tasks that require dividing or switching of attention among multiple tasks. It is with tasks that require flexible control of attention that older adults show impairment at. This is the cognitive function that is associated with the frontal lobes. An older person’s ability to independently function in day-to-day life can be greatly affected by attentional deficits. Divided attention impairments are associated with increased automobile accidents in older people.
- Working Memory
Another cognitive function in which older adults show deficit is one that involves active manipulation, reorganization, or integration of the contents of working memory. A lot of complex day-to-day tasks such as problem-solving, decision-making, and planning of goal-directed activities need the integration and reorganization of information from different sources. In order to perform these cognitive tasks, attention, speedy information processing, and the ability to eliminate unnecessary information, are all important functions.
- Long Term Memory
Old age has an effect on episodic memory, or the memory for certain occurrences or experiences that have happened in the past. A lot of older people might think that their memory for events that happened long ago is better than their memory for things that happened recently. However, it is probable that their memory of remote events have retained only the primary information, and none of the details anymore, specifically spatial and temporal details. Older people also have trouble remembering the context or the source of information.
Almost all older people experience a decline in their sensory and perceptual abilities, and this decline can significantly affect their engagement in their everyday lives. A weakened hearing sense can isolate older people, and keep them from participating in conversations and social interactions. Visual impairments on the other hand, can put restrictions on their mobility, and can go hand in hand with attentional deficits, making more activities dangerous for them.
Ways to Keep the Brain Young
Ageing is inevitable, but brain impairment doesn’t have to be. Here are ways to keep the cognitive function young and able:
- Get Physical Exercise
According to research, using muscles can also help the brain. Animals who exercise on a regular basis increase the number of the tiny blood vessels that enable blood flow to the part of the brain responsible for thinking. Exercise also triggers the production of new nerve cells and increases the synapses. This causes the brain to be more efficient and flexible, and implies a better functionality in ageing animals.
- Exercise the Brain as well
Physical exercise is important, but so is mental exercise. In researches with humans and mice, activities which require cognitive function may help with stimulating the production of new connections between nerve cells and may help the brain to generate new cells. Activities such as reading, word puzzles, logic and math problems can help stimulate the brain. Activities that utilize hand-and-brain coordination, such as drawing and painting, would help as well.
- Supplements such as Tongkat Ali
Supplementation using herbs is a great way to keep the brain alert. One of the most promising herbs out there is the Tongkat Ali, or known scientifically as the Eurycoma longifolia. This herb can be found in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, but it has also already reached other parts of the world due to its popularity. It is true that this herb is best known for its ability to improve sexual performance among men. However, it also deserves to be hailed for its brain-enhancing abilities.
There are a couple of things that an ageing person has to improve in his health and lifestyle in order to keep age from impairing his cognitive function. One of these things is blood pressure, as high blood pressure increases the chances of cognitive decline among old people. Another thing to improve is the blood sugar level. High blood sugar level puts a person at risk for diabetes, and diabetes consequentially increases the risk for dementia. Improving the cholesterol level is also important because high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol also contribute to the impairment of cognitive abilities.
The reason that Tongkat Ali is particularly effective in protecting the brain from cognitive impairment is that it has the ability to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It also has a lot of vitamins and minerals that can help keep both a healthy body and a healthy mind. Another reason for this herb’s effectiveness is its ability to care for a person’s emotions. Caring for the emotions is a key factor in keeping the brain healthy. Those people who often feel anxious, depressed, exhausted, or sleep-deprived, tend to get low scores on cognitive function tests. While low scores do not necessarily translate to a greater tendency to have cognitive decline in old age, good mental health is still important in keeping the brain young. Tongkat Ali has the ability to lower cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is one of the body’s stress hormones, and lowering it also means better mood and state of mind.
Long life is the goal for a lot of people. However, long life would not be enough if it is not of great quality. Maintaining good cognitive function is important to enjoy old age. Perhaps then, it can be proven that the older a person gets, the wiser he becomes.