Brain Health March 2007
11 Steps to Brain Health
It seems that every publication I read these days has a feature on brain health. Certainly one of our greatest fears seems to be that we are of sound body and unsound mind. Every time we forget someone’s name, we shudder.
The February 2007 issue of Aging in Stride agrees that we experience memory changes as we age; speed of recollection and amount of detail we remember decline. At the same time, many aspects of memory remain strong for most of us: vocabulary and language skills, reasoning and logic, ability to pay attention and to acquire skills, and that special quality, “wisdom.” Degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are more common as we age, but many other memory problems are due to treatable conditions such as depression, stress, overmedication, diabetes, sleep disorders, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, alcoholism, and kidney, liver or thyroid problems.
New studies are being released every year that demonstrate greater understanding of brain function and aging. General consensus is that the formula for brain fitness includes many day-to-day activities, and that challenging brains can sprout new neurons. Clinical neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) asserts in Innovations (Winter 2006) that senior centers have the potential to be the brain health centers for their communities because they offer educational programs on lifestyle choices that affect brain health, as well as a range of classes to stimulate new learning, encourage social interaction and provide regular physical exercise.
Aging in Stride and Innovations recommend these steps to promote memory health:
- Practice good nutrition. Choose nourishing meals that include Omega-3 fish, fruits, vegetables, and take a multivitamin.
- Stay physically active. Create an activity plan with your doctor, and stick to it. One quarter of the blood pumped through your heart goes to your brain.
- Socialize. Studies show that isolation contributes to dementia.
- Sleep well. Memories of the day are “filed away” during sleep, and poor sleep contributes to poor concentration, so get plenty of quality sleep.
- Treat depression and avoid stress. Both cause brain chemistry changes that can mimic memory loss. Try meditation, yoga, counseling and other forms of relaxation.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol. Both can be toxic to the brain.
- Challenge your mind and memory. Mental stimulation promotes new neural connections. The key is to engage in activities that are novel and complex.
- Have a memory fitness strategy. Use visualization, concentration and other memory building activities. Don’t be afraid to use technology to help-such as electronic organizers.
- Use seatbelts, bike helmets and hand rails. Remove fall hazards. Head injuries are not good for brain health.
- Practice spirituality. Studies show that meditation and prayer boost the immune system.
- Talk about memory concerns with your physician. Review your medications with your physician.
So, come on in to PSRC and feed your brain by taking a class, socializing, volunteering, attending a seminar.
Susan W. Hoskins LCSW
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