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Brain Health: Ways to Keep It Healthy – Richmond, VA

- Monday, May 02, 2016

There are lifestyle habits that you can adopt 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.

Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity. A two-year clinical trial of older adults at risk for cognitive impairment showed that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors slowed cognitive decline.

Embrace lifestyle habits that improve your overall health, such as exercising, consuming a nutritious diet, and staying cognitively and socially active — science suggests these may support brain health as well. It’s never too late to make changes to achieve a healthier lifestyle — or too early to start.

Physical activity is a valuable part of any overall body wellness plan and is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. If it’s safe for you, engage in cardiovascular exercise to elevate your heart rate. This will increase the blood flow to your brain and body, providing additional nourishment while reducing potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Consider physical activities that may also be mentally or socially engaging, such as walking with a friend, taking a dance class, joining an exercise group or golfing. Incorporating activities and healthy exercise habits at a young age will allow you to enjoy the lifelong benefits of regular physical activity. However, it’s never too late to start — making healthy choices at any age is beneficial to your well-being. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Take care of your health

Keep your heart healthy to help keep your brain healthy. Growing evidence suggests that many factors that increase the risk of heart disease also may increase the risk of dementia. These factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

  • Visit your doctor regularly.
  • Get your “numbers” checked, including weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Actively seek treatment to keep yourself within healthy ranges.
  • If you have diabetes, manage it properly.
  • Stop smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  • Take action to minimize stress. Studies have found that regular physical activity decreases stress, increases your ability to manage stress and leads to better mood overall.
  • Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea can result in problems with memory and thinking.
  • Avoid excess alcohol.
  • Seek professional assistance to address anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.

Check back in for more details on the other ways to keep your brain healthy: a healthy diet and staying mentally and socially active. 

For more information, contact Spring Arbor.

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