by Julie Grochowski, Research Specialist III, Texas Health and Human Services
Brain health is vital to maintaining independence and performing everyday activities as we age. There are many factors that can affect brain health, including age-related changes, accidents and injuries, mood disorders, substance use disorders and neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission Office of Acquired Brain Injury provides information on the prevention of brain injuries for at-risk populations and fall prevention strategies for older adults. To learn more about the Office of Acquired Brain Injury, call 512-706-7191 or email OABI@hhsc.state.tx.us.
There are 28 area agencies on aging located throughout Texas. These AAAs provide services to help people age 60 and older, their family members and caregivers receive information and assistance in locating community resources. To learn more about AAAs, call 800-252-9240 or email AAA.email@example.com.
Although some risk factors may be out of our control, research has shown that small changes in lifestyle routines could improve brain health.
The National Institute on Aging identifies four components of brain health:
o Cognitive health is how well you think, learn and remember.
o Motor function is how well you make and control movements, including balance.
o Emotional function is how well you interpret and respond to emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant).
o Tactile function is how well you feel and respond to sensations of touch, including pressure, pain and temperature.
Older adults may have concerns specific to their cognitive health. An infographic created by the National Institute on Aging explains the difference between mild forgetfulness (a normal part of aging) and serious memory problems. Normal aging and mild forgetfulness include:
o Making a bad decision occasionally.
o Missing a monthly payment.
o Forgetting which day it is and remembering later.
o Sometimes forgetting which word to use.
o Losing things from time to time.
The Administration for Community Living’s handout on the basics of brain health and aging discusses ways to reduce risks and help maintain brain health. Suggested lifestyle tips include exercising to improve balance, managing cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure, reducing alcohol consumption, eating nutritious meals, and more.
In addition, scheduling regular health exams is important to monitor changes in memory and thinking over time. Reviewing medications with a health care provider can uncover possible adverse medication interactions that are impacting brain health.