Healthy ageing is nothing without a healthy mind.

While there is much emphasis on maintaining good physical health in the later years of life, there is a growing importance of maintaining a healthy mind as one gets older.

"This (a healthy mind) would ensure a good quality of life for seniors and help them retain their ability to function in the community. Cognitive health encompasses the capability to learn, think and recall, which is a crucial aspect of carrying out day-to-day activities," explained the Department of Psychiatry from Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

"With age, some changes in the ability to think, which may include attention span and speed of thinking, may be normal. However, experiencing rapid forgetfulness, problems with verbal expression, and difficulties following directions may all be part of abnormal aging." she added,

In Singapore, a key study from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) revealed that up to 10% of the population aged 60 years and older has dementia. Some notable factors associated with dementia were advanced age, a history of stroke, lower education and non-employment.

7 Easy ways to keep your mind healthy during old age

1) Maintain good physical health

To take good care of your mind, you first need to take good care of your body. Keeping chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol and diabetes in check is essential.

Consult your primary care physician on optimal control targets of these various health conditions should you suffer from them. Consider going for regular health screenings for early detection of these conditions.

2) Maintain a healthy diet

Keeping away from added sugars and avoiding salt in your diet may reduce or prevent the worsening of high cholesterol and diabetes. This, in turn, may reduce risks of dementia as a sequelae of a stroke.

Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables might also prevent early dementia formation, and it is also good for cardiovascular health.

3) Keep physically active

Having a regular exercise routine will improve cardiovascular health. This helps to lower cholesterol levels and maintain optimal blood pressure control.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week, which may, in turn, provide considerable health benefits for the individual.

4) Quit smoking (if you haven't)

Smoking raises the chance of having a stroke and may lead to a type of dementia known as vascular dementia.

There is also an association between smoking and Alzheimer's type dementia. Smoking is a modifiable risk factor, and cessation of smoking will reduce the risk of developing dementia.

5) Continue to stay connected

Participating in social activities may improve overall wellbeing and keeps one engaged with the world around us. Social interaction may delay the onset of dementia.

Consider joining activities held by your local Senior Activity Centers/community centers to stay connected with the community!

6) Keep your mind active

'Exercise' the brain regularly by participating in stimulating activities such as games, puzzles and hobbies.

Learning a new skill can also stimulate the mind, and lifelong learning may delay the onset of dementia. Check out other activities that help improve memory naturally in this article here.

7) Correct hearing loss

Hearing loss is often under-diagnosed and left untreated. This can lead to long-term health effects, which include an increased risk of depression and falls.

Studies found an association between hearing loss and memory impairment. Hearing loss may also decrease one's quality of life, especially in the later years.

Do seek help early if you find yourself or your loved one having trouble hearing.

Declining cognitive health: What to look out for

These are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for that may be concerning in the development of dementia.

Do talk to your doctor if you or your caregiver notices these changes in your elderly loved one:

  • Being more forgetful than usual, especially of recent events.

  • Having problems with handling complex tasks such as cooking, withdrawing money, topping up EZ link card.

  • Having difficulty performing daily activities or familiar tasks independently because of forgetfulness.

  • Experiencing word-finding difficulties.

  • Asking repetitive questions.

  • Displaying changes in behavior (e.g. being socially withdrawn, changes in personality and mood.

  • Having difficulty distinguishing time.

  • Having difficulty recognising familiar people or places.

Ref: J22