Cognitive decline can be expected as we age—feeling less sharp mentally, for example, or taking longer to make decisions. To some extent, occasional bouts of forgetfulness are normal for older individuals. But cognitive decline can sometimes lead to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
By doing what you can to minimize cognitive decline, you can help your mind function better and experience a happier, healthier retirement.
An active social life—including a network of supportive friends, family, and loved ones—helps your well-being at all ages. As you get older, however, socializing grows in value. Specifically, it can protect your brain from cognitive decline.
You may have heard the phrase “use it or lose it” to refer to brain health. Basically, this phrase means that the more you engage your brain (through conversations and activities), the more brain function you’re likely to maintain. Likewise, by engaging less, you risk losing more.
Many parts of our brain involved in socialization are the same areas affected by age-related cognitive decline. Socializing frequently and consistently, researchers report, strengthens these areas of the brain in older adults (Felix et al., 2020). Researchers connect this to a lower risk of developing MCI, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
If you live in a community with a lot of noise (such as a city) compared to less noise (such as a suburban or rural area), it could influence your likelihood to develop dementia. A report in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the official journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, suggests that noise exposure may be connected to cognitive decline in older adults.
Over a five-year period, the study examined more than 5,000 participants age 65 years and older, factoring in the residential noise levels of each participant. Researchers measured the rates of cognitive decline among these individuals. Then, they compared that to the noise levels in their communities.
The study associates higher noise levels with worse cognitive performance. Researchers report up to a 36 percent higher chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and up to 29 percent of Alzheimer’s disease (Weuve et al., 2020). However, the study makes no direct links between cognitive decline and noise exposure.
Certain kinds of environmental toxins have also been connected to neurological disorders such as dementia. Physical and chemical changes can occur in the brain as a result of prolonged exposure to toxins such as air pollution, heavy metals, neurotoxic metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals.
While toxins such as air pollution can be difficult to avoid, eating pesticide-free produce and being aware of the impact of other toxins on your brain health can benefit you. According to Mir et al. (2020), these compounds are linked to “accelerating the progression of [Alzheimer’s disease].”
The articles mentioned here all contribute to a growing discussion about how environmental and social factors may influence our brain function later in life. If you have questions about your health care or how to find the right coverage, RetireMed is here to help. Set up a chat with an advisor by calling 844.388.6565. If you are already a RetireMED client, you can contact your advisor by calling 877.222.1942 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org