If you are a regular reader, you know that I encourage staying active, mentally, socially and physically. Just because we have a life-changing condition, doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our life.
It is far too easy to allow the problems of the world, and with your health, to drag you down. I read an interesting article by Dr. Heather Snyder in The Costco Connection this weekend. She referenced “10 Ways to Love your Brain” from the Alzheimer’s website.
"Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits. When possible, combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body. Start now. It’s never too late or too early to incorporate healthy habits."
- Break a sweat. Engaging in regular physical activity. It elevates the heart rate and increases blood flow in the brain and body. We might not be able to do what we used to do, but we can still get a workout. I believe the key word here is ‘regular’.
- Hit the books. Study in any stage of life will help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Take a class; learn a foreign language, or a new instrument; or join a book club. Challenge your brain by trying something new/different.
- Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
- Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart and your brain just might follow.
- Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls. I’ll repeat this last one … take steps to prevent falls.
- Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.
- Catch some Zzz's. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community — or, just share activities with friends and family.
- Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
- Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.