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Keeping Your Brain Healthy
Today’s society places a lot of focus on physical health and how a healthy physical lifestyle can keep things like cardiovascular problems, obesity, diabetes and other maladies at bay. One thing we often do not hear a lot about is brain health, and ways to keep our brains strong.
Our brain is the most complex organ in our bodies and controls every aspect of us. Thanks to “brain plasticity”, our brains are always changing as we experience new things, learn a new skill or practice daily habits. So wisdom certainly does grow as we age, and for most people over the age of 70, creativity, learning, reasoning and general memories will not change. But, due to genetics, age and other risk factors such as lifestyle, changes in the brain can begin to occur as we age.
Doctors are realizing how closely related our minds are bodies are in regard to our general wellness. What is good for the body is good for the brain, and vice versa. Here are a few easy things we can do to keep our brains in tip-top shape.
1. Keep your blood pressure under control and stop stressing. High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can make it hard to pull information from your brain’s memory. Lowering stress levels keeps cortisol at a healthier level, allowing your brain’s cognitive processes to flourish. Chronic stress puts an enormous amount of strain on the hippocampus. This is the primary part of the brain for memory formation.
Learning how to stay calm in situations that are high pressure can make your brain function better and your memory stronger, too. Everyone has different ways they unwind or blow off steam – to lower stress or find a moment of calm, try a quiet walk or a few minutes of meditation. If a high powered aerobic exercise is what helps you lower your stress levels, refer back to our first tip – a little physical exercise goes a long way.
2. Feed Your Brain. Engaging in a healthy diet is another simple step that will keep both your body and your brain functioning well. Fish, beans, whole grains, fruits and green vegetables all contain high amounts of the antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals. Foods full of antioxidants to fight free radicals can also help fight the breakdown of neurons in our brains.
3. Get moving with physical exercise. Y Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for improving the health of your brain. Studies suggest that physical activity releases a protein that promotes healthy nerve cells in the brain that ultimately give your memory a boost. As we age, the neurons in our brains lose the connections that bind them together – so more physical activity (especially aerobic exercise) can increase capillary development in the brain. This equals more blood supply, more nutrients and more oxygen to the brain. These are all vital components of good brain health. Researchers have found that people who are more fit have sharper brains.
Healthy hearts and bodies can have significant effects on overall brain health. A healthy heart supplies nutrient-rich blood to our brains, which some researchers believe may have a link to Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Learn a New Skill! Card games or other activities that make us process various scenarios and make choices based on those potential outcomes are easy ways to mentally challenge ourselves. With today’s technology, brain-training games and apps are easy to download on computers and smartphones. Many brain games train our minds on the speed of our comprehension and ability to act quickly. A rapid response to games of questions means a healthier brain. And you can increase your response time the more your practice. Learning a new skill or setting goals for yourself are other ways to keep your brain engaged.
5. Be Social. People who are isolated or have limited social interaction have a higher rate of depression. There is research to show that isolation and depression can contribute to dementia. To keep your brain active, spend time with friends – doing things you enjoy and that challenge your brain just a little bit. Many seniors find it difficult to go out due to mobility challenges or the loss of a spouse or close friends. In cases like these, it’s important for family or neighbors to reach out and make an effort to engage with them.
If you have a loved one who may be experiencing memory loss or exhibiting other signs of mental decline, visit The Villas Senior Care Community’s website to learn about resources and services available from nursing care to stimulating activities. Brain health is important at any age and should be cultivated every day!