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HEALTHY BRAIN.........For Young and the old

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Can lifestyle changes impact your brain?

As we live longer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are on the rise. The good news is that you can take actions now to improve your brain’s health. Even better, these actions will improve your overall health, including protecting your heart.

These lifestyle habits can help you to maintain or potentially improve your health as you age. These habits, spanning four categories — physical health and exercise, diet and nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement — can help keep your body and brain healthy and potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline.”

Brain Health Guide

This guide focuses on a good balance between:

Stress management
Best tools for training your brain
Managing medications

The article also cites a recent two-year clinical trial of older adults at risk for cognitive impairment that shows that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors slows cognitive decline.

Thus, the good news is that you can take positive steps today to maintain your brain health and delay the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Experts say that your brain may naturally lose some “agility” and level of performance as you get older ­– just like the other parts of the body. However, it can deteriorate even more if you don’t take care of it.

While the Alzheimer’s Association touts physical activity, social engagement, good nutrition and mental exercise as the best prescription for promoting brain fitness, other experts also include adequate sleep and stress reduction activities.

Each one of these lifestyle factors is important individually, but when practiced together they form a comprehensive strategy for maintaining brain health and delaying symptoms of cognitive decline. For the best results, adopt a balanced lifestyle that enables you to:

Exercise Regularly and Stay Physically Active – Physical activity promotes brain health. It is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells to develop. It can also significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protects against those risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Regular physical activity that includes adequate cardiovascular exercise is strongly encouraged. Neuroscientists recommend a variety of beneficial activities such as dancing, gardening, more frequent use of your non-dominant hand and leg and walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis.

Remain Socially Connected and Engaged – Scientific research has shown that people who are regularly engaged in social interaction maintain their brain vitality, enhance their zest for living and reduce their risk of depression and dementia. Experts on healthy aging say it is important to remain integrated in the community, to build a growing network of family and friends, be actively engaged in life and always have a purpose for getting up each day.

Give Your Brain a Workout, Too! – Just as physical exercise helps your body to stay fit, a workout for your brain can provide similar benefits.Mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. However, research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.

According to the National Institutes of Health, practicing mental exercises during the senior years can improve brain health and help maintain the thinking skills that are needed as our brains get older. Sustained brain health and enhanced lifelong learning are vital parts of aging and improve quality of life. These activities are just as important as taking care of the body.

Activities such as reading, board games, crossword puzzles, learning a second language, taking a class, painting, increasing exposure to classical music and acquiring new skills are all valuable for brain fitness.

Adopt a Brain-Healthy Diet – A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that is balanced and nutritious is highly recommended for both body and brain health. The latest research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. In addition, there is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture) provides science-based advice on food choices for good health. Water is also essential for the electrical transmissions within the nervous system that help us with sensing, learning, thinking and acting.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep – As we age our sleep patterns can change. Therefore, it is essential to get the right amount of sleep your body needs to stay active and alert so you have the energy to engage in activities that can keep you physically and mentally sharp.

Find Effective Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Life – The sheer pace of today’s lifestyle increases the likelihood of increased stress in our lives. Stress causes reduced cognitive functioning and can also lead to emotional breakdown. In its most extreme form, stress can actually be deadly.

A healthy brain lifestyle creates a more calm, balanced and manageable environment that supports sufficient time for oneself and keeps the brain energized. There are a wide variety of stress reduction techniques and activities today that have been found to be effective. Consider toga, tai chi, gardening, meditating, spiritual pursuits and walking. Find out what works best for you and then give yourself sufficient time to do it.

An overall brain health strategy that incorporates these six elements can significantly improve your chances of maintaining a healthy, functioning brain and avoiding or significantly delaying the development of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias as you age.

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