What’s the magical formula for keeping your mind sharp and your brain healthy as you grow older? Sudoku? Walking at the mall? Pickle-ball tournaments?
The truth is, there’s no secret sauce for memory problems or other brain changes that come along with aging. But this doesn’t mean your brain has to shut down.
Science points to a combination of social factors and healthy habits that when taken together can help you preserve and protect your brain’s function over time keeping it sharp and healthy.
Here are some tips for filling your reservoir of brain power:
Mental Stimulation/Keep Learning
Engaging in meaningful activities like volunteering or hobbies or learning new skills may improve your thinking abilities, studies say. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography showed more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.
According to Ron Bucci, Senior Executive Director at The Greens at Cannondale, “Exposure to the arts including music, theater and dance can be fun and stimulating, both mentally and physically. Engagement, including relationships with others, must be meaningful for seniors to have the happiest healthiest next chapter.”
Taking a brisk walk or jog certainly makes you feel more alert and focused. But does physical activity really benefit your brain? Researchers say yes. Studies find that regular physical exercise can help treat depression or anxiety and help prevent or postpone your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As little as 15 to 30 minutes a day can make all the difference.
Healthy Diet and Weight
It’s no secret that a healthy diet help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes. Researchers have found that a healthy diet also helps to keep your brain sharp and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s. Numerous studies have found that people who eat a Mediterranean style diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil) and plant sources of proteins have a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia.
Low Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar
High blood sugar can increase your risk for dementia, even without diabetes. So avoiding highly sweetened foods like sodas and candy, exercise regularly, limit your alcohol to two drinks a day and reduce stress. Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps blood sugar balance and reduces mental stress, all of which can help maintain healthy brain (and heart) function.
What can Seniors Do to Improve Memory?
Exercise your Mind and Memory
Games and crossword puzzles are great for stimulating the brain. But you might also consider volunteering and those social activities that keep you independent and engaged with friends and family.
According to Ron Bucci, Senior Executive Director at The Greens at Cannondale, “We encourage our seniors to build up their cognitive reserves by taking a class or learning a new skill. We offer a calendar of daily activities, which keep our residents’ minds and memories active, such as book clubs, gardening, crafting, cooking and much more.”
Aging can reduce a person’s ability to focus. Economize the use of your brain by concentrating, repeating what you want to know and filtering out distractions. Repeating something you’ve just read, heard or thought about out loud or writing it down helps to reinforce the memory or connection.
Make use of calendars and planners, lists, folders, and address books to keep everyday information accessible. It’s helpful to designate a place at home for your glasses, purse, keys, and other items you use regularly. Removing clutter from your home helps to minimize distractions, so you can focus on the new information that you want to remember.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep is linked to slower thinking and risk of dementia. Ideally, aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But do be wary of sleep medications that can lead to cognitive decline. Instead, try talking to your doctor about healthy sleep hygiene and develop habits to help your body settle down at bedtime.
For more information on enriched living for seniors, contact The Campus at Cannondale at 203.761.1191