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Keeping Your Brain Healthy

Keeping your brain healthy is something many of us do not think much about on a daily basis. We think about physical health and general medical health, but not necessarily how we should be strengthening our brains. While there are a number of neurological disorders (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinsons' disease or dementia) that can affect brain function, memory loss is not something that comes automatically with aging. Luckily, there are a number of simple tasks that can help keep our brains strong and healthy.

1. Physical exercise. You can kill two birds with one stone with this step! Physical exercise, even something as simple as taking a brief walk, is one of the best things you can do for improving the health of your brain. Why? Studies suggest that physical activity releases a protein that promotes healthy nerve cells in the brain that ultimately give your memory a boost. As we age, the neurons in our brains lose the connections that bind them together – so more physical activity (especially aerobic exercise) can increase capillary development in the brain. This equals more blood supply, more nutrients and more oxygen to the brain. These are all vital components of good brain health.Researchers have found that people who are more fit have sharper brains. Another bonus by adding more physical activity to your daily routine? Exercise staves off a myriad of maladies like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure – all conditions that can be culprits of an unhealthy brain.

2. Feed Your Brain. Engaging in a healthy diet is another simple step that will keep both your body and your brain functioning well. Just like with physical activity, a healthy diet goes hand in hand with staving off chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and other debilitating diseases that can cause a wealth of physical and mental problems. Foods full of antioxidants to fight free radicals can also help fight the breakdown of neurons in our brains. Beans, whole grains, fruits and green vegetables all contain high amounts of the antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals.

3. Challenge Your Mind. Many seniors are card sharks in the games of pinochle, bridge, gin, hearts … the list goes on and on! Card games or other activities that make us process various scenarios and make choices based on those potential outcomes are easy ways to mentally challenge ourselves. With today's technology, brain-training games and apps are easy to download on computers and smart phones.Many brain games train our minds on the speed of our comprehension and ability to act quickly. A rapid response to games of questions means a healthier brain. And you can increase your response time the more your practice. Just like with physical activity, the more you do it, the healthier and faster your brain will respond.

4. Stay Social. People who are isolated or have limited social interaction have a higher rate of depression, and some studies show that this isolation and depression can be a factor in the development of dementia. To keep your brain active, spend time with friends – a game of gin rummy, a puzzle or a book club discussion are all easy, fun ways to keep your mind engaged and your social calendar full, too.

5.
Stop Stressing! Easier said than done, of course. High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can make it difficult for you to pull information from your brain's memory. Lowering stress levels keeps cortisol at a healthier level, allowing your brain's cognitive processes to flourish. Chronic stress puts an enormous amount of strain on the hippocampus. This is the primary part of the brain for memory formation. Learning how to stay calm in situations that are high pressure can make your brain function better and your memory stronger, too. Everyone has different ways they unwind or blow off steam – to lower stress or find a moment of calm, try a quiet walk or a few minutes of meditation. If a high powered aerobic exercise is what helps you lower your stress levels, refer back to our first tip – a little physical exercise goes a long way.

If you have a loved one who may be experiencing memory loss or exhibiting other signs of mental decline, visit our website at www.HeritageOfCare.com to learn about resources and services available to treat Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. RESTORE Therapy also has therapy that works with patients who have experienced strokes and other neurological impairments. Heritage offers support groups and other resources.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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