Everything we read today about brain health is devoured by those of us entering into the second half of our lives. We have accomplished our major goals and are now looking for a way to successfully and gracefully enjoy our remaining lives to the fullest by keeping our bodies and brains in tip-top form and ultimate working capacity. Just what have we learned about our human bodies and aging well that will help us continue on for several more decades with the ease that has gotten us to our current status?
Research points in the direction of several factors on maintaining our physical and cognitive function between middle age and old age. We know that optimizing our health during this time of our lives depends on the role of dietary intervention as well as physical activity along with a combination of social and learning skills to keep us sharp.
Brain Health Begins on a Physical Level
Exercise is the best thing we can do for our bodies and brains. Aerobic exercise can cut our lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s by 50% and general dementia by 60%. It stimulates blood flow in our bodies and creates the release of a special protein that is responsible for growth of new brain cells which help in memory, learning, and the ability to make decisions and form plans. We have learned that by breaking a sweat, even if we haven’t exercised for a number of years, people who are most fit at midlife have a much lower chance of developing dementia.
Brain health can become improved by beginning an exercise program even when starting in mid-life. A moderate intensity program of approximately two and a half hours per week (as little as 20 minutes per day) will get the new brain cells forming. Start out slowly (10 minutes per day) and work up to 30 minutes two to three days per week. Walking is the best way to begin. Add weight training after a few weeks to improve your flexibility, range of motion, muscle tone, and blood flow to the brain.
Exercise will help you to sleep better at night and will also boost your mood and ease any depression or anxiety you may have. So the many advantages of moderate aerobic exercise will pleasantly surprise you.
Dietary Tweaking Also Adds Power for Brain Health
Not surprising is the boost that eliminating sugar and processed foods will help your brain function without cloudiness. Nuts and seeds which are loaded with vitamin E helps to fight cognitive decline as you age. Foods high in antioxidants such as the berries—blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and red grapes take care of your memory and learning functions in your brain health, and oranges, bananas, and apples are also beneficial. Vegetables to remember include asparagus, spinach, onions, and tomatoes. For sources of protein, consider those that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids including salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies.
Maintaining Brain Health Can Also be Fun!
Get started on Facebook. Learn a new hobby that you haven’t had the time to tackle in the past. Play games against the clock or do crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Read and absorb new ideas, materials. Laugh—brain health can be stimulated through the production of neurotransmitters linked to alertness brought on by laughter. It can also help to decrease stress hormones which tend to cloud thinking. Socializing with other by talking helps to combat loneliness which is also a risk for dementia.
Rest and Relax the Brain
Meditation strengthens the connections between brain cells and helps make processing information easier in the brain. Try to focus attention on deep breathing and total relaxation. Classes are available in many cities for low or no cost. Take a nap when you feel tired to help keep your memory and learning as well as creativity and problem-solving well-tuned. Short daytime naps should not interfere with your regular sleep at night.
Brain Basics http://www.alz.org/braintour/3_main_parts.asp