By Jose Villalobos, MD
Aging comes with its share of changes and challenges. Among those challenges is keeping your mind sharp, healthy and active. Mental health is an important aspect of aging well. So, what exactly is it?
Mental health is our way of defining how well someone is doing overall in relation to society. Doctors generally check this through a series of screening questions. We’ll focus on the patient’s mannerisms and how well they pay attention, to check for signs and symptoms of any underlying psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety or something more complex like schizophrenia.
The state of your mental health will affect your quality of life. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s will impact your memory and limit how much you can do on your own without assistance. Depression or anxiety may cause you to withdraw from society or even harm yourself physically. Simply put, the state of your mental health will determine how much autonomy you enjoy as you age.
Although your brain will change as you age, there are a few things you can do to slow or prevent cognitive decline:
- Read outside your comfort level – challenge yourself by reading books that will make you break out the dictionary
- Play intellectual games – crossword puzzles and board games such as chess are a great way to keep you focused and challenge your mind
- Take care of your body – taking care of yourself by eating right and exercising will decrease your chances of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia
- Start writing – Protect your brain by turning your thoughts into language while sparking your creativity
These four simple tips will help challenge you and keep you mentally sharp as you age. Remember, talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about you or a loved one’s mental health, or before beginning a diet or exercise plan.
Dr. Jose Villalobos is a Board Certified Internal Medicine physician for WellMed at Central Brownsville. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He received his medical degree from Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. Dr. Villalobos completed his residency in Internal Medicine at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.