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What is Cognitive Functioning and How Can You Improve It?

Jan, 20 2022

Aging Parents

Many of your cognitive abilities begin to deteriorate slowly as you age. These include short-term working memory, processing speed, memory/information retrieval, attention, and problem-solving difficulties. While slower cognitive abilities are a part of the aging process, faster and progressive cognitive deterioration is typically a symptom of dementia.

Specific therapies, such as being socially, cognitively, and physically active, as well as making appropriate dietary modifications, can help to slow down cognitive deterioration in your aging loved ones. This article discusses in-depth about cognitive function and the ways to improve it.

What is Cognitive Functioning?

Cognitive functioning refers to the essential set of mental processes that allows you to perform the mental process of perception, learning, memory, awareness, understanding, reasoning, intuition, judgment, and language.

It includes executive functions:

  • Flexible thinking
  • Working memory
  • Self-control

How Cognitive Function Helps Elderly People

For seniors, cognitive functions actually improve in some areas as they grow older. A study suggests that older people have increased orienting and executive inhibition. This study tested elderly people aged from 58 to 98 for the following three cognitive functions:

  • Alerting
  • Orienting
  • Executive inhibition

The study tested elderly people for their cognitive functioning with the help of a computer-based Attention Network Test, also known as ANT. The ANT tests show the participants' reaction to the target stimulus on a computer screen. The efficiency of all three networks is measured by the ANT test simultaneously. Experts suggest to improve cognitive functioning through diverse activities.

How to Improve Cognitive Functioning

As you grow older, your cognitive functioning slowly declines. This may include impairment to short-term memory, retrieval of information/memories, processing speed, attention, and problem-solving skills. However, you can improve the cognitive functioning of seniors with the following:

  • Getting Regular Physical activities

Unluckily you become less physically fit as you age, but you can maintain proper cognitive functioning or even improve it with adequate workouts regularly. Exercising has a positive effect on the immune system and can maintain your body’s structure. Exercising increases blood flow and oxygen levels, including the brain. Studies have shown that senior adults who walk daily are less likely to have a decline in cognitive functioning 5-10 years later in their life.

  • Be Socially Engaged

Older people who participate socially with others daily, such as through support groups or volunteering, can effectively maintain and increase cognitive and mental wellness. Being socially engaged also necessitates improved motivation and modest physical exercise, both of which have positive effects on cognitive function in older persons.

  • Play Brain-Training Games

Cognitively demanding games like chess or bridge require you to use your working memory and executive analytical skills. Consequently, frequently playing such games helps seniors have better working memory and reasoning skills than those who don’t play. Others games that can increase and maintain cognitive functioning for older adults include Sudoku and crosswords.

  • Have a Nutritious and Balanced Diet

Nutrition and proper diet play a very important role in your life by profoundly affecting your cognitive functioning. This involves following the 'Mediterranean diet,' consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish (omega 3), and very little red meat, processed carbohydrates/grains, and sweets. These diets are high in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and have neuroprotective properties. Vitamins and antioxidants supplements are also important for seniors to reduce their cognitive decline.

See Also: 10 Meals That Are Considered Quick and Easy for Seniors.

Cognitive functioning plays a very important part in your life, but as you grow older, your cognitive decreases. However, by following the proper steps, you can maintain and even improve your cognitive functioning by being socially active, doing physical exercise, and consuming a nutritious and balanced diet.

See Also: How Seniors Can Use Tech to Stay Healthy and Connected

If you or your aging parents are suffering from a cognitive disorder and need a senior care facility in Orange County, then make sure to contact our caregivers at Newport Home Care. They are always ready to provide care for you and your loved ones.