Here is a new year’s resolution that probably didn’t make your list this year: Take better care of my brain. Yet it should be part of everyone’s “to do” list. That’s because brain health impacts every corner of our daily lives. Treating our brains with the respect they deserve can help ward off disease, keep dementia at bay and help our bodies thrive. And, for those caring for loved ones with dementia, caring for your own brain holds even greater significance given the challenges of caregiving you face and the concerns for your own cognitive health.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a great list of ways to “love your brain”. We have summarized them below. As you read through them, ask yourself: How many of these brain-loving actions am I taking every day?
- Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise. This will increase blood flow to your brain as well as improve overall circulation. Studies show a clear connection between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Learn something new. Formal education at any age helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Today it’s easier than ever to learn, through online classes and tutorials as well as local courses through your community college.
- Stop smoking! This is an obvious one. We have known since the early 1960s, how dangerous smoking is, yet young people continue to start smoking and as they age find it very difficult to give up. There is clear evidence that smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline.
- Take care of your heart. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes) all can negatively impact your cognitive health.
- Wear seat belts and helmets. Brain injury can increase your risk for cognitive decline and dementia. It’s important to wear that seat belt when driving and use a helmet for bike riding and contact sports. Also take steps to prevent falls!
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet that is low in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Try the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Although research is still limited, these diets may contribute to a reduction of risk for cognitive decline.
- Get your sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep, due to insomnia and/or sleep apnea, may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Care for your mental health. Studies link a history of depression with an increased risk of cognitive decline. That’s why it’s important to seek medical treatment for symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
- Stay socially engaged. Social isolation is the enemy of cognitive health. Pursue those social activities that are meaningful to you. Get involved in your community. Consider volunteering. Join a choir. The important thing is to share activities and experiences with others.
- Challenge your mind. Games and puzzles are a great way to keep your mind active. Challenging your brain may have both short and long-term benefits for your brain.
It’s never too late to start working on each of the above brain-loving tips. At Anthem Memory Care communities, we stress all of the above to our residents as well as families. We also encourage participation by family members in our many activities and events. Not only are our activities geared towards maintaining as much cognitive functionality as possible for resident, but they can help family members keep their own cognitive levels high and healthy. We invite you to drop by and visit our communities. We will show you how our programs are designed to engage residents, staff and families in activities that are brain healthy as well as enjoyable for everyone.