A big thank you to Nicolette Vasco from the Alzheimer’s Association for her presentation on tips for maintaining a healthy brain and body, especially as we age. While we constantly hear about taking care of our physical selves, we often forget that our brain is just as important and continuously engaging in cognitively stimulating activities can help keep our brain healthy and potentially lessen the impact of dementia related symptoms. Aging well depends on genes, environment, and lifestyle and while we cannot change our genes, we can make changes to our environment and lifestyle to put ourselves on a healthier path. Below are four areas we can work on to ensure that our brain and body remain healthy:
- Physical health and exercise – The heart and brain and interrelated so engaging in cardiovascular activities, such as running, walking, or biking, can lead to increased blood flow to brain and may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Trying to become physically active can be overwhelming, especially if we try to do too much too quickly. It is important to do something we like or enjoy and start out small to ensure that we can create a routine that works for us. Another important aspect is to make sure we get adequate sleep which can be just as important as our exercise regimen.
- Diet and Nutrition – Foods that are heart healthy can have positive impact on the brain as well. Eating breakfast is an easy way to ensure that your brain is properly fueled for the day. Foods that are healthy for our brain and body include green, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and vegetable oils. Foods we should avoid in excess include processed foods, solid fats, sugars, deep-fried foods, and fast food.
- Cognitive Activity – Keeping your mind active forms new connections among brain cells and cognitive activity encourages blood flow to the brain.WE can maintain and possibly improve our cognitive functions through reading, solving puzzles, playing challenging games, and learning new skills and hobbies, such as another language.
- Social Engagement – Social engagement is associated with living longer with fewer disabilities. Joining clubs, organizations, and support groups can help us develop a routine that encourages exercising or cognitive activities. Remaining socially and mentally active may support brain health, offer you an opportunity to maintain your skills, and possibly delay the onset of dementia.
For more information on tips to stay healthy or anything related to dementia and the aging brain, please visit the Alzheimer’s Associate at www.alz.org.