By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D.
Internal Medicine & Geriatric Specialist
The Aging Brain
Changing Sleep Patterns:
Another change that occurs during the aging process is this: Your need for sleep remains about the same most of your life. If you need about 6 hours nightly now, chances are you´ll need that amount, give or take a half-hour, 10 years from now.
However, aging can cause you to sleep less soundly. After age 70, it is common to spend more time in bed but less time asleep. That´s because Delta sleep (specific sleep waves), which is the deepest, most restorative sleep, decreases with age. Delta sleep occurs soon after you fall asleep.
If you think you´re sleeping less, remember to count afternoon naps. Many older people who rest during the day find that the combination of naps and nighttime sleep totals just about the same hours of rest they had when they were younger.
As we get older the brain usually declines in size and the speed with which it responds. The age that changes occur varies greatly, based on your own personal medical history. I have said to many patients, “What you put in your body, on your body and how you treat your body, will not only impact your outer appearance, but also your health and brain function.”
Each person is different. From the time you were born (and before) your body is dealing with genetics, environmental exposures, nutrition, stress and other factors that have life-long influence on your body. These issues and many more affect your health long before you ever start thinking about aging. By the time most people think about aging, their life cycle is already 70-80% over.
Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Regardless of your age, it’s never too late to improve your quality of life. Remember, your health is a combination of many things that vary greatly from one person to another. Your friend or family member may get better results than you, even though you’re both following the same plan. Your needs and health issues are specific to you.
One of the problems I encounter frequently in my geriatric practice is dealing with patients who took medicines, treatments, potions or supplements and got different results than expected or promised. You will seldom ever see an advertisement related to healthcare offering a 100% guarantee or your money refunded if not totally satisfied!
U.S. Baby Boomers are now over 60 and looking for answers to stay healthy, look younger and live longer. Demands on medicine to produce cures and solutions are resulting in more commercialized products and ads promoting everything you can imagine.
EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN: “Use it or lose it” does apply. There are games and software on the market that claim they can give your brain a work out but I’ve had no specific feedback of how effective they are. Activities that challenge the brain can help it to function better. You might consider the following:
Read a book/Find a new hobby/Take a Class/Learn a New Language (Spanish would be good)/Change your Daily Routines from Time to Time/ Keep Active Socially. There are many activities at LCS to consider, as well as the cultural events at the Auditorium and the local theatres. Join a Local Church – You’ll find wonderful support. Manage your stress – You can train your mind to help you reduce stress. Worry and stress reduces the oxygen flow to the brain. Learn to relax and de-stress your body. Extra sleep, meditation and prayer always help me.
(Ed. Note: Dr. J. Manuel Córdova lives in Lakeside and is the President of the Jalisco Geriatric and Gerontology Association.)