Aging Successfully: Six ways to maintain brain health

Does it seem to you how the older we become the more concerned we are with our brain health? I wonder if we would be healthier seniors if we had paid more attention to brain health when we were younger.

As you know, it is never too late for improvement so here are six ways to maintain — if not improve — our brain health. Since there are countless books and articles written on the subject the following is only a brief summary.

Exercise

Both physical and mental exercise are critical for maximum brain function.

Mental exercises such as puzzles and card games keeps the brain stimulated. These activities also exercise the brain’s memory center.

Physical exercise increases the heart rate pushing more oxygen to the brain. It also helps create new brain patterns, critical for brain health. A favorite is Tai Chi as it also improves coordination, reducing the risk of falling.

Food

Approximately 60 percent of our brains are made of fat cells and to function correctly these cells need fat.

Omega-3 fats build new brain and nerve cells. Healthy fats such as olive oil, walnuts and fatty fish, like salmon, are excellent choices.

Foods rich in anti-oxidants such as berries, citrus fruits and broccoli help protect the brain from free radicals.

Caffeine stimulates brain function. Two good sources are green tea and dark chocolate as both have additional nutrients for brain support.

Oxygen

Our brains comprise only 2 percent of our body’s mass yet utilize about 30 percent of the oxygen inhaled.

Physical activity is the obvious way to get more oxygen into the body. Another, critical, way is diaphragmatic breathing. In simple terms, diaphragmatic breathing is breathing deeply from the diaphragm as opposed to breathing with only our lungs.

Relationships

In 1972 a French scientist, Michel Siffre, isolated himself for six months. During that time he documented how the isolation affected his mind. It gradually became harder to think clearly, and he tried to befriend a mouse for companionship. Many other studies reveal how isolation is linked to cognitive decline.

If you live alone get a pet, even if it is a pet mouse or a beta fish. Phone family and friends for a good visit or to schedule coffee dates. As COVID restrictions lift find a group to join, be it a church or a club.

Sleep

We all know how critical sleep is and how difficult it is to function after a night without quality rest. Scientists continue to study how sleep affects our minds, and their discoveries are amazing.

Here are three suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep, though there are countless others available: 1) Check with your primary care provider to make sure your medications do not cause insomnia. 2) Turn off all electronic screens, including your TV, an hour or two before retiring. These machines emit a blue light telling the brain it is time to wake. 3) Create a comfortable sleeping environment where it is dark, quiet and not too warm.

Water

Research has revealed how a 2 percent loss of water weight can cause enough dehydration to begin mental impairment.

Water flushes toxins and dead cells out of the brain. It also helps balance chemical processes which regulate moods. Water increases blood flow to the brain, increasing oxygenation which calms the brain, allowing for a more restful sleep.

While it is popular to carry a water bottle around with us throughout the day, another good way to drink additional water is every time you wash your hands take a drink of water.

Email us at [email protected] and share your thoughts. I respond to every email.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See crystallinn.com.


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