Boost Your Brain Health

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Mature Adults Playing Mind-Stimulating Games

Staying regularly engaged in social interaction, pursuing new interests and playing challenging mind games are recommended steps for seniors to adopt a brain-healthy lifestyle.

Surveys of adult “baby boomers” consistently find that memory loss is a top concern, and Alzheimer’s disease is their most feared disabling disease. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive and fatal disease of the brain in which brain cells fail. The disease seriously impairs a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

Adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle can not only help keep your brain healthier as you age but also protect you from chronic illnesses. A study of older men and women found that those who were more physically and mentally active and more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia. To protect your brain, follow these recommendations.

Stay Physically Active. Exercise helps maintain good blood flow to the brain, encourages the growth of new brain cells and can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which are all conditions that put you at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Just 30 minutes a day will get the body moving and the heart pumping.

Adopt a Brain Healthy Diet. Like the heart, the brain needs the right balance of nutrients to function well. A brain-healthy diet reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol.

Stay Socially Active. Research shows that people who are regularly engaged in social interaction maintain their brain vitality. Stay active in the workplace, have lunch with friends, go to church, volunteer in community groups and join social groups.

Stay Mentally Active. Mental decline as you age may be due to altered connections
among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You can even generate new brain cells.

“The best way to stay mentally active is to cross train your brain by engaging in a variety of brain-stimulating activities on a regular basis with increasing levels of challenge,” says Karen Briskie, Director of the Medical Team’s Journey Behavioral Health Program. Here are some ways you can improve your thinking skills and stay mentally active:

 Commit to lifelong learning: read a book and discuss it with a friend, or take up a new language;
 Play games to challenge your mind: chess, jigsaw puzzles, cards, and memory games;
 Pursue a new interest: learn to play a musical instrument, or go to the theater;
 Break your routine: walk on a different route or change the order of your morning routine;
 Involve one or more of your senses in a novel way: use your non-dominant hand to perform daily tasks such as brushing your teeth;
 Play stimulating video games like Tetris, which has been shown to improve efficiency in parts of the brain associated with reasoning, critical thinking, language, and processing;
 Keep up hobbies such as scrapbooking, knitting, and gardening.

“If you have concerns about memory loss, thinking skills and behavior changes, consult your doctor since an early diagnosis can have many advantages,” says Briskie. No treatment can stop Alzheimer’s, but there are drugs that can relieve symptoms in the early and middle stages of the disease and help control behavioral symptoms. There are also programs available, like THE MEDICAL TEAM’s Journey Behavioral Home Health Program, which can help patients with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The program assists and educates patients and caregivers in areas such as safety, medications, communication techniques, coping strategies and provides assistance with activities of daily living.

Sources: THE MEDICAL TEAM Aging and Memory Loss Wellness Program, Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease Health Sense from THE MEDICAL TEAM, Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org), and Ask Dr. Sears (www.askdrsears.com).

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