By Stephanie Thompson, R.N.
Americans are living longer than ever before with all of the great medical advances. With this comes the fear of memory loss and dementia. Whether you are 25 or 75, it’s always a good time to think of ways to keep your mind healthy.
The brain’s volume gradually shrinks as you get older. Healthy lifestyle and good medical care may help keep the mind like the body, active and vital well into to old age. Some of the ways to keep your mind and body healthy are:
1) Control cholesterol and high blood pressure. These can lead to heart disease and stroke which are thought to contribute to the development of certain types of dementia.
2) Exercise regularly. Keeping physically active helps maintain blood flow to the brain and reduces risk of high blood pressure.
3) Eat a healthy diet. Antioxidants such as vitamin C,E, and A may be essentially important. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is also important. High blood sugar levels lead to damage in the lining of the vessel which can lead to a lot of different complications. Eating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables and avoiding the saturated fatty foods will help do this.
4) Exercise your mind. “Use it or lose it!” We have all heard that saying. It is important to challenge, stimulate, and effectively exercise the minds five main cognitive functions: memory, attention, language, visual-spatial skills and executive function. Some exercises for the brain are working crossword puzzles, looking at old photograph albums, working table puzzles, and reading the newspaper daily. Brain exercises are important to maintain brain function and keep synapses firing and the mind sharp and alert.
5) Sleep. Yes this is very important in keeping the mind healthy. You should have 7-8 hours of sleep a night. There is proof that we do not need less sleep as we age. It is also okay to take that daily snooze. When you sleep your brain has a chance to relax and process everything you did and learned that day.
The key to maintaining your brain’s health is engagement through mental, physical and social activity. Your brain will stay busy putting you at lower risk for disease and keep your mind sharp as you age.