According to researchers, 60% of those who made resolutions on New Year’s Day have given up on them by mid-January. Perhaps it’s because they’re not looking far enough into the future. Instead of looking toward a skinnier swimsuit season or more wealth at the start of retirement, experts at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America [alzfdn.org] suggest focusing on healthy aging. And, they say, it’s never too soon to start.
“Lifestyle choices like proper diet, exercise and staying mentally and socially active can all play a role in aging and brain health,” said Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., AFA’s president and CEO. Taking care of your body and brain is a resolution everyone should make, and keep, in 2020 and beyond.”
AFA encourages individuals to take the following 10 steps to promote good brain health and healthy aging:
1. Eat well – Adopt a low-fat diet high on fruits and veggies, like strawberries, blueberries and broccoli. Take daily vitamins. Limit intake of red meats, fried and processed foods, salt and sugar. In general, foods that are “heart heathy” are also “brain healthy.” Make sure to consult with your doctor about what an appropriate diet based on your medical needs looks like.
2. Stay active – Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and can also help improve mood and overall wellbeing. Brisk walking benefits brain health, while aerobics can boost your heart rate, and weight training builds strength and flexibility. Try out different activities until you find one that works for you.
3. Learn new things – Challenge your brain by starting a new hobby like playing tennis, learning to speak a foreign language, trying a cooking class, or something you haven’t done before. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand stimulates the brain by forcing it to think outside of its normal routine.
4. Get enough sleep – Getting a consistent sleep every night is key; at least seven to nine hours is ideal. Having a good sleep environment is also helpful. Insomnia or sleep apnea can have serious physical effects and negatively affect memory and thinking. If you are having difficulty with your sleep, be sure to speak with your doctor about it.
5. Mind your meds – Medication can affect everyone differently, especially as you age. Keep your doctor or local pharmacist updated on any changes with medications and have them review your drug list as medications can interact with each other.
6. Stop smoking and limit alcohol – Smoking can increase the risk of serious illnesses, while too much alcohol can affect memory, impair judgment and present safety issues.
7. Stay connected – Social interaction and maintaining an active social life are very important for brain health, cognitive stimulation and mood. Invite friends and family over for a meal, board games or just to hang out. Engaging in your community and participating in group activities also is beneficial.
8. Know your blood pressure – Blood pressure can impact your cognitive functioning. Visit your physician regularly to check your blood pressure and make sure it is in normal range.
9. See your doctor – Maintain checkups. Health screenings are key to managing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, all of which can impact brain health. Speak with your physician about any concerns or questions you have about your health.
10. Get a memory screening – Our brains need regular checkups, just as other parts of our bodies do. A memory screening is a quick, easy, non-invasive exam for our brains. Talk to your doctor about getting a screening as part of your annual wellness exam or call AFA at (866) 232-8484.