Blog | Train your mind to take care of your health
Aging is the law of life. As we grow older, we gain life experience but we also lose physical and mental capacities, which increase the risk of developing diseases. A concept that has become fashionable lately is "active and healthy aging". This is an aging process that aims to improve people's quality of life as they grow older, making the most of their physical, mental and social potential.
Is it possible to age in a healthy way?
Life expectancy in Spain has increased considerably in recent years. People are living longer, but this does not always mean that the years we gain are of quality.
When we talk about quality of life we refer to all those elements that determine the material and emotional well-being of a person. Following this idea, healthy aging and a good quality of life means that the person has all his or her needs met, is an active member of society, enjoys good physical, mental and emotional health and has a positive social environment.
Regular physical exercise and a balanced diet are the guidelines that always accompany a healthy lifestyle. However, this alone is not enough. The big forgotten part of the equation is our brain. It is just as important to eat well and keep the body active as it is to take care of our brain and exercise it.
Train your brain
Healthy aging requires a correct cognitive state, understood as the different mental functions that allow us to carry out our daily activities; attention, memory, language, orientation, and executive functions, among others.
An effective way to maintain and improve our cognitive functions is by performing cognitive stimulation, which is a non-pharmacological therapy consisting of a set of targeted exercises designed to improve and/or maintain general cognitive functioning.
Comprehensive Psychostimulation Program (PPI)
Non-pharmacological therapies are those interventions directed and planned to improve the well-being of people without using any type of drug. In some diseases such as dementia, it has been seen that combining pharmacological therapies with non-pharmacological therapies can achieve positive results for the maintenance of the cognitive status of the person.
At Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona we implemented in 1991 an Integral Psychostimulation Program (PPI) so that the user with early dementia can improve and slow down cognitive deterioration.
It has been proven that cognitive stimulation is a tool with beneficial effects for people with early dementia as well as for healthy people. Cognitive stimulation exercises serve as a treatment, but also as a method of prevention for healthy people who want to have a healthy aging.
Cognitive stimulation exercises
Cognitive stimulation focuses on different areas and works them through a series of exercises that help strengthen them.
- Attention: Attention is the ability to generate, select, direct and maintain an adequate level of activation to process relevant information. Exercises such as reading, games of ordering images and/or words, associating words or pointing out specific symbols, are some exercises to improve attention.
- Executive functions: these are the functions that help us have self-control, plan, solve problems, predict and reason. Relating concepts, reproducing gestures and sounds, describing the appearance of an object, similarities and differences of two figures, or estimating times are some of the exercises to stimulate this area.
- Language: The ability to convey our thoughts and feelings through the spoken and written word. There are many exercises to work on language and some of the most common are: writing words that begin with "P" to work on phonetic verbal fluency, writing words that are animals to work on semantic verbal fluency, or reading a text and having the person explain it in his or her own words to work on language comprehension.
- Memory: The brain's ability to remember information. A good way to exercise short and long term memory is for the person to read a text and then be asked specific information about it. After 40 minutes, the person is asked again to see what he/she remembers. If we want to work on episodic memory, we recommend playing well-known songs and asking for the name of the song and the artist. We can work on visual memory by showing some objects and then asking which of those objects we had previously shown. On the other hand, if we want to work semantic memory, a good exercise is to ask for the name of presidents, rivers or mountains.
- Orientation: The ability that allows us to be aware of ourselves and the context in which we are now. In cognitive stimulation we work on the orientation in space, time and person. For the first case, the person can be asked how to go from one place to another, such as from home to the supermarket. For orientation in time, the person is asked what day of the week it is, the month, the year, etc. Finally, to work on the orientation in person, the person must tell us the names of family members or people close to him/her.
Aging and quality of life are compatible, but exercise and a balanced diet are not enough. Within the A-B-C of healthy habits, the brain plays a very important role. To age in a healthy way it is essential to exercise our mind, keep it active and stimulate it. As the Romans said, the secret is mens sana in corpore sano.
JOAN HERNÁNDEZ FARIGOLA
Therapist responsible for the Cognitive Stimulation Workshops at Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona