12 Ways to Slow Mental Decline

by Chris Regal Editor

Get more sleep

A 2013 study from the University of California, Berkeley found that structural damage occurs in the brain naturally as you age, which interferes with sleep quality and can blunt your ability to store long-term memories. Structural changes cannot be reversed once they take effect, but researchers speculate that one way to slow brain decline is to focus on improving sleep quality.

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Drink green tea

A 2013 study from the University of Michigan has discovered that a molecule in green tea may help prevent Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. The molecule in the green tea–EGCG–prevents the formation of protein bundles which are associated with neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's. This substance also can act to reverse some damage already done.

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Looking to prevent cognitive decline? Go for a run! A new study from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has found that exercise can protect the aging brain better than mental exercise or leisure activities. When people in their 70s exercised more, they exhibited few signs of memory and thinking decline and showed less brain shrinkage than their counterparts who were not as active.

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Control hypertension

According to a 2013 study from the UT Dallas Center for Vital Longevity, uncontrolled hypertension could be associated with neurological deterioration and Alzheimer's disease. But controlling or preventing hypertension earlier in life may delay such brain changes. In patients with uncontrolled hypertension, researchers found greater likelihood of a brain plaque associated with Alzheimer's.

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Play a video game

According to research from the University of Iowa, older people can prevent the brain's aging process through mental agility exercises, such as video games that utilize mental processing speed and skills. These games differ from classic cognitive exercises, such as crossword puzzles, due to the unpredictability of the circumstances under which the game was played.

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Do mental exercises

It is widely known that physical exercise is good for your health; but how much time should be invested in mental exercise? According to a study from the University of Toronto, cognitive training exercises may help prevent mental decline in healthy older adults. The research indicates that exercising the mind is an effective way to prevent cognitive decline.

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Take an aspirin

A 2012 study published in BMJ Open found that an aspirin a day may slow brain decline in women. The study observed 500 elderly women at high risk of cardiovascular disease between the ages of 70 and 92. Those who took aspirin for the entire five-year study period exhibited much less mental decline than those who did not take aspirin. However, aspirin did not affect the rate at which the women developed dementia.

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Stop smoking

New research from King's College London indicates that smoking may be linked to a faster decline of memory, attention, and reasoning. Smokers performed more poorly on tests than those who did not smoke. Smoking had the highest negative impact on cognitive performance over a four year period, as compared to other factors, including higher BMI, blood pressure or stroke risk.

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Eat a low-carb, low-calorie diet

A low-carb, low-calorie diet could delay the effects of aging, according to scientists from the Gladstone Institute. As cells age, they become less effective in clearing potentially toxic free radicals, which leads to cell damage, oxidative stress and aging. This diet, designed to limit oxidative stress, might spur production of a molecule that resists oxidative stress and protects cells against aging.

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Eat more berries

Blueberries and strawberries are high in flavonoids, a substance that appears to reduce cognitive decline in older adults, according to a 2012 study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The study found that cognitive aging could be delayed by up to two and a half years if people consume foods rich in flavonoids.

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Keep high blood pressure under control

Cardiovascular risk factors could be linked to faster memory decline. According to a study from King's College London, participants who experienced high blood pressure did worse on a series of cognitive tests designed to evaluate memory, attention and other cognitive skills.

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Strengthen your marriage

Research shows that married people have better mental and physical health than unmarried peers. Aging adults who are happy in their marriage are likely to have better health as they continue to age, and aging adults with declining health could benefit from improving their marriages.

Chris Regal
Meet Our Writer
Chris Regal

Christopher Regal is a former Web Producer for a variety of conditions on HealthCentral.com, including osteoarthritis, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, Migraine, and prostate health. He edited, wrote, and managed writers for the website. He joined HealthCentral in November 2009 after time spent working for a political news organization. Chris is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and is a native of Albany, New York.