Summary: Researchers are exploring how diet, exercise, and social engagement can help stave off cognitive impairment and improve overall brain health.
source: University of Kentucky
Healthy brain aging is a concern for all of us. June is known as Alzheimer’s and Mind Awareness Month. It’s normal to struggle with the little things like remembering names – and we all experience some slowing of our thought processes with age – but everyone hopes to avoid serious cognitive impairment.
Some cognitive difficulties, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have underlying aetiologies that we are still working to understand. However, we know that brains can simply lose function through poor physical, mental and social health. Many causes of cognitive decline can be prevented.
Just as we create exercise regimens for the body, we must create a routine for brain health.
As a rule, what is good for heart health is good for brain health. Exercising regularly, eating healthy food, and maintaining a healthy weight promote brain health.
People of all ages, especially the elderly, benefit from leaving home, participating in learning activities, and living an active social life. It is important to stick to a schedule that encourages all activities of healthy brain aging.
Summer is, in many ways, the perfect time to set up a routine for healthy brain aging. Warm weather provides the opportunity for physical exercise through gardening and walking. Many community organizations offer summer classes in dance, photography, art, music, and other hobbies.
Summer is also the season for farmers’ markets and fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain compounds called plant polyphenols. These compounds, which help plants fight disease, have been observed in animal models to extend life by promoting general cellular health. Blackberries, cranberries, blueberries, and red wine are all good sources of polyphenols.
Anyone interested in healthy brain aging can practice Neuroscience. These “brain exercises” are activities that can be thrown into the daily schedule on a whim. Examples include taking a different route home, shopping at a different grocery store, or intentionally driving or walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood. These simple activities activate problem-solving areas of the brain as the person navigates an unfamiliar area.
Social participation is key for older adults, who may find their social circle diminishes as friends and relatives move in, become seriously ill or die.
Seniors centers offer great resources for social activities. Something as simple as getting together at a casual game of blackjack can help preserve the cognitive functions of the brain. For some seniors, the transition to the seniors’ community is ideal, as it provides increased opportunities for organized activities and socializing with peers.
Through socializing, hobbies, lifelong learning, healthy eating, physical activity, and challenging their minds on a daily basis, most people have the potential to achieve healthy brain aging.
I’ve seen some patients reverse MCI simply by adopting a healthier lifestyle – so it’s never too late to encourage healthy brain aging.
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