Aging Healthy: Thinking About Cognitive Health

Our last Aging Healthy series post looked at our mental health and provided strategies for managing stress and loneliness. In today’s post, we’re going to discuss cognitive health.

two women sitting side-by-side on a park bench share a laugh. [credit:, dario valenzuela]
[CREDIT:, Dario Valenzuela]

As you might have guessed, the way we think, learn, and remember—what we call our cognitive health—changes as we age. The initial changes might be very modest, such as losing the ability to recall a specific word or name in the moment. A little memory loss as we age is normal, according to the National Institute on Aging. But, research has found that aging adults can better maintain cognitive health by eating healthy foods, staying active, and learning new skills, and other simple steps.

In one National Institutes of Health study, researchers scored 3,000 participants on five healthy lifestyle factors that all have important health benefits:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity.
  • Not smoking
  • Not drinking heavily
  • A high-quality, Mediterranean-style diet.
  • Engagement in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, writing letters, and playing games.

The study found that making small changes in our daily lives can add up to some significant health benefits. For example, participants who followed at least four of the behaviors noted above had a 60 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t. Better still, the study showed that even a few of these behavior changes lowered risks. Note that researchers pointed out that the study results were observational and didn’t prove cause-and-effect. But, the behavior study results are promising, and new clinic trials are underway.

an older man holds a smiling toddler on his lap. [credit:, humphrey muleba]
[CREDIT:, Humphrey Muleba]

While the National Institutes of Health states that we don’t yet exactly what, if anything, can prevent cognitive decline as we age, studies do show that taking control of our lifestfyle and making small changes can add up. So, heere are some things to keep in mind for your cognitive health:

  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Sleep well.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Keep physically active.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.

Learn more about your cognitive health and a healthy lifestyle at the National Institute on Aging’s cognitive health webpage and the federal Alzheimers.govCan I Prevent Dementia” page.

Well, this just about brings us to the end of our Aging Healthy blog series. Our next and final post will summarize what we’ve discussed (and hopefully learned).


Maria Portelos-Rometo is a UF/IFAS Extension Agent at Sarasota County. She specializes in Family and Consumer Sciences.
Posted: May 9, 2024

Category: Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Aging, Aging Healthy, AgingHealthy, Cognition, Cognitive, Health, Learn, Memory, Pgm_FCS, Remember, Senior, Think, Thought

Leave a Reply

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories