Having a Brain Healthy Lifestyle
by Amanda Link
Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle as a senior is important whether it be exercising your brain or exercising your body. In fact, physical exercise is one of six important factors in keeping your brain healthy. The six steps in maintaining a healthy brain lifestyle are:
- Regular Exercise
- Healthy Diet
- Mental Stimulation
- Quality Sleep
- Stress Management
- Active Social Life
There are other factors such as not drinking or smoking and keeping your cholesterol low, but those six steps can help one prevent getting Alzheimer’s. By working at these steps each day, it will train your brain and make it work stronger and harder longer than it would have before.
Step #1: Regular Exercise
According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%. Below are some tips for getting started on your exercise plan today:
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times per week.
- Build muscle to pump up your brain.
- Include balance and coordination exercises.
- Stick with it for a month.
- Protect your head.
Step #2: Maintain a Healthy Diet
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs a nutritious diet to operate at its best. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel are best. These food tips will keep you protected:
- Follow a Mediterranean diet.
- Avoid trans fats and saturated fats.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Get plenty of omega-3 fats.
- Eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals
- Eat across the rainbow.
- Enjoy daily cups of tea.
Step #3: Mental Stimulation
Those who continue learning new things throughout life and challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make it a point to stay mentally active. In essence, you need to “use it or lose it.”
- Learn something new.
- Practice memorization.
- Enjoy strategy games, puzzles, and riddles.
- Practice the 5 W’s.
- Follow the road less traveled.
Step #4: Quality of Sleep
Your brain needs regular, restful sleep in order to function at optimum capacity. Sleep deprivation not only leaves you cranky and tired, but impairs your ability to think, problem-solve, and process, store, and recall information.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule.
- Be smart about napping.
- Set the mood.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual.
- Quiet your inner chatter.
Step #5: Stress management
Stress that is chronic or severe takes a heavy toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area of the brain known as the hippocampus, hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Yet simple daily tools can minimize its harmful effects.
Maintain Stress Levels By:
- Remember to Breathe!
- Schedule daily relaxation activities
- Nourish inner peace.
Step #6: Maintain An Active Social Life
Oftentimes, we become more isolated as we get older, but there are many ways to keep your support system strong and develop new relationships:
- Join a club or social group
- Visit your local community center or senior center
- Take group classes (such as at the gym or a community college) • Reach out over the phone or email
- Connect to others via social networks such as Facebook
- Get to know your neighbors
- Make a weekly date with friends
- Get out (go to the movies, the park, museums, and other public places)
Information courtesy of Melinda Smith, M.A., Melissa Wayne, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: May 2013.