It’s an all-too-common phenomenon: As we get older, we notice little slips in our memory or a little more time needed to come up with the right word in a sentence. If you have an illness that restricts the flow of oxygen to the bloodstream and the brain– such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease– your cognitive abilities may be impacted, as well, according to the US National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.
The changes that come with normal aging impact each of us. For anyone wishing to improve cognitive brain function, some simple daily routine changes derived from a study conducted by UCLA can boost your brain power—whether you’re prescribed oxygen therapy or not.
- Eat well and often: In the study mentioned above, participants ate five small meals a day, which kept energy-rich glucose consistently flowing to the brain. The researchers emphasized a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and slow-burning carbs like whole grains.
- Keep fit: You can seldom go wrong with keeping your body in optimum form—even while on oxygen therapy. To improve physical fitness, participants in the study took daily walks. Simple daily walks reduce stress and have even been associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the UCLA study. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run a marathon, just circle your block or walk up and down your driveway a few times.
- Challenge your mind: Crossword puzzles, Scrabble, interactive games and brain teasers – you can find them online or challenge your friends to a match in person. The UCLA researchers connected a lively curiosity and sense of play with improved cognitive brain function. Another study by the University of New South Wales concluded that people who stayed mentally active reduced the risk of dementia.
- Control Your Stress: To manage stress, participants in the UCLA study performed daily relaxation exercises. Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, notes that stress causes the body to release cortisol, a hormone that can impair memory and damage brain memory cells.
By simply making a few changes in your daily routines regarding eating, exercising, challenging your mind and managing your stress, you can improve your cognitive and mental health, according to UCLA. If you are a caregiver for a loved one with COPD, download this free guide for more tips on living with COPD.