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One piece of excellent news in the past year was that brain health seems to be improving among older Americans. A large national survey from the University of Michigan found that over a 10–year-period ending in 2002, memory loss and thinking problems were down significantly among senior aged 70 and up, from 12.2 percent to 8.7 percent. That’s a change that translates into hundreds of thousands of men and women, though Alzheimer’s is still a top concern for millions worldwide.
Researchers aren’t sure why the decrease in cognitive impairment is occurring, but they suspect that a better educated and more affluent older generation that is less likely to smoke and more likely to eat better and get regular exercise may be helping to keep the brain young.
Here is a list of wellness approaches and prevention facts that may help set the tone for a brain healthy year.
1. Keep socially engaged. Make sure you are going out regularly and keeping up with your family either through e-mail, letters, phone calls and planned reunions. Your friends also need the same attention. Giving attention certainly helps you receive in kind.
2. Eat healthy food, fruits, vegetables, proteins. Practice good nutrition. Understand what is best for your brain. Eat plenty of fish, vegetables and avoid fatty and friend foods. Clogging those veins prevents adequate blood supply to your brain.
3. Keep your immune system healthy. Treat yourself well, get at least 8 hours of sleep daily, and recognize any depression and deal with it with your physician, eat healthy.
4. Lower your blood pressure. Work on taking your BP medicine daily, eat less salt, lose weight if necessary, and exercise regularly.
5. Do brain health and memory activities. Find word puzzles and do them frequently. Play word games such as Scrabble, puzzles, play memory word games, and matching pictures.
6. Physical activity—at least 30 minutes each day. This can be walking, cleaning house, sweeping the carpet, walking the steps, and chair exercises. These 30 minutes can be divided into 10 minute increments.
7. Treat Depression. Prolonged depression and untreated depression places a burden on your brain. It causes memory impairment.
8. Treat pain and chronic pain. Remember medications can cause forgetfulness and problems with ambulation.
9. Play card games. Fish, bridge, matching colors, solitaire and hearts. Play trivia, and how something is the same and different.
10. Establish good relationships that consist of a give and take. Allow yourself time with your friends.
11. Practice being happy and laugh frequently. Read the comics, get books that you enjoy and bring laughter into your life.
12. Stay mentally challenged. Attend adult education classes. Renew your interest in old hobbies. Learn how to do new things. All of these activities demonstrate help you prevent memory loss. Formal lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s.
13. Practice good weight management. Having a thicker middle increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s’ disease. Belly fat in particular may be bad for the brain.
14. Work at a job which keeps your mind sharp into old age. The more complex the job, the better the memory and thinking skills held up after retirement. Retirement may not be for everyone.
15. Avoid a routine that keeps everything the same. For instance, Drive different ways to the market, friend’s houses’ and the malls.
16. Keep your Cholesterol in check. Keeps TRACK OF THE NUMBERS. HIGH NUMBERS CAN CREATE AND DOES INCREASE CLOGGING OF VEINS IN THE BRAIN.
17. Pass the fish. If you like fish such as tuna, salmon and other types of oily fish may help to lower the risk of memory decline and stroke. Avoid fried fish.
18. Learn the computer. Surf the web for new information and ways of doing new games etc.This helps your brain to be involved in decision –making and complex reasoning.
19. Ask you primary physician to check vitamin levels—Vitamin D and B12, Check your Thyroid functioning.
20. Keep important phone numbers in your memory and on occasion test yourself. Change your pass codes monthly and memorize them and do always keep a cheat sheet.
21. Avoid falls and hitting your head as you age. Make sure your balance is okay and your house is safe. This includes throw rugs being picked up, having grab bars in the bathroom, good lighting and using it. Watch the steps-Highlight with red and yellow tape at the start and finish of the steps. Do not carry too much at one time.
22. Remember memory impairment is not part of normal aging. See your physician and tell him what is going on.
23. Keeping your heart healthy will keep your brain healthy. What is good for the heart is good for the brain.
24. Managing risk factors may delay or prevent cognitive problems later in life.
25. Keep your wellness program going with your physician. Make sure he checks your Vitamin D, B12, Folic Acid, and Thyroid functioning. Dysfunction in any of these areas can cause memory problems.
Hazel Kuchsinsky is a Community Reporter and Charter Member with The Village Connector Community News. She the CEO of Ivory House Health Services, a Nursing Care Management Company and Residential Services Agency. Contact Hazel at 410-823-3153 or on the web at www.ivoryhouse.net.