Boost Your Brain
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Boost Your Brain

8 Tips on Wellness and Brain Health

It is never too early or too late to fight cognitive decline by whipping your brain into shape.  AARP has created Staying Sharp, a program which follows the guidelines of the Global Council on Brain Health, which provides information and actions that you can take to help maintain and improve your brain health at any age. 

We offer eight tips on wellness and brain health, as it pertains to the 50+ demographic:

1.  Drink more water. The brain is 80 per cent water, and hydration is critical. Dehydration is an often overlooked health risk for seniors.  The Cleveland Clinic offers these tips for helping older adults stay hydrated. You most likely know this feeling of thirst – or even of being parched. But as you age, that sense of thirst diminishes. So even when your body needs to be replenished with water, you might not realize it. Because of that, many older adults don’t drink enough liquids. “By the time they are thirsty, that’s already an indication of early dehydration,” says geriatric nurse Anne Vanderbilt, CNS.

2.  Mindfulness activities like meditation can be used to promote a healthier brain. These activities can be done from the comfort of home or in a group setting and act as an effective way to stimulate the brain while providing stress relief. While meditation is a frontrunner in mindfulness activities for seniors, there are other exercises that can help older adults practice mindfulness.

3.  Get a brain “physical” by having cognitive testing as well as blood tests or brain imaging. There are free cognitive tests for older adults and caregivers that can help you understand if your loved one is showing any actual signs, or if they are just forgetful. The Institute on Aging emphasizes that these are not actually diagnostic, and they shouldn’t be treated as strictly medical. But they are meant to show if there are signs, to prompt a follow-up visit to a medical professional. But mostly, they are meant to start taking away guesswork, bravado, or fear. They’re meant to start showing you the truth.

4.  Do interval training to get your heart beating. Even a 10 minute walk or bike ride can change how parts of the brain connect and perform. Is HIIT (high interval training) safe for older adults? According to silversneakers, the answer is yes. If you’re new to HIIT, it’s best to ease into it. He suggests that people who are relatively healthy but not very active at the moment start by spending at least three months in the weight room. This beginner’s guide to the gym can help you get started.

5.  Feed your brain - eat more plant foods.  Are you thinking of exploring a more plant-based diet? Here are 7 benefits of plant-based diets for seniors — the new, doctor-prescribed and research-approved trend that boosts health and helps you enjoy a longer life and more vibrant lifestyle.  healthy fats and less saturated fats and processed foods.

6.  Seek help for sleep problems. Sleep apnea is now strongly linked to dementia. The Mayo Clinic overview points out that sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you might have sleep apnea. The main types of sleep apnea are:

Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax

Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing 

Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, which occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. If you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor. Treatment can ease your symptoms and might help prevent heart problems and other complications.

7.  Consider cognitive training. Look at ways to sharpen your attention, reasoning and innovative thinking. According to a NIH article, some types of cognitive training conducted in a research setting also seem to have benefits. For the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial, healthy adults 65 and older participated in 10 sessions of memory training, reasoning training, or processing-speed training. The sessions improved participants' mental skills in the area in which they were trained with evidence suggesting these benefits persisted for two years.

8.  Watch your blood pressure. Maintaining your blood pressure as you are gracefully greying can help prevent dementia later. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University has uncovered a new risk worth sidestepping: People with high blood pressure at midlife had greater decline in key thinking skills later in life than those with normal blood pressure readings. Learn more in the John Hopkins Medicine Health article, Hidden Brain Risk. Midlife High Blood Pressure. 

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