We all expect changes to our mind and body as we get older, but there are a few things you can do to slow the decline in memory and lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. During Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, let’s highlight a few areas where you can make positive changes to keep your brain healthy.
1. Create an exercise routine for a healthy brain
Exercising is one way to improve your brain health. People who are active are less likely to experience a decline in mental function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise improves blood flow and memory and counters some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occur when we age. Exercise stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood, and thinking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week alongside muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week. We recommend talking to your doctor about the appropriate level and intensity of exercise, especially if you have a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. And ApexHealth members – don’t forget about your fitness benefit! We wrote about how we can help support your fitness goals in a previous blog post.
2. Choose brain-healthy foods
Your diet can also help keep your brain healthy. As the Alzheimer’s Association points out, a balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
One of these is the Mediterranean diet, a type of meal plan that’s rich in plant-based whole foods like fruits, vegetables, bread and other whole grains, potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil. The omega-3 fatty acids found in extra-virgin olive oil and other healthy fats are vital for your cells to function and increase mental focus, slow cognitive decline and keep your brain healthy. The Mediterranean diet also includes some low-fat dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry.
3. Try brain-stumping activities
Your brain is like a muscle – to keep it strong and healthy, you need to keep using it. There are many activities that can help keep your brain in shape such as doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles, reading, playing cards, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Different activities can help engage different types of your brain. Try a combination of activities to make the most of your efforts. Challenging your brain has short- and long-term benefits to brain health.
4. Get regular sleep to clear your brain
Sleep is important to preserving brain health. It may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep will give you the best health benefits. You can get great sleep by creating a regular schedule, avoiding naps and late-night snacks, and setting up a safe and restful place to sleep. Get more sleep tips by reading our previous blog post.
Your sleep could be interrupted by insomnia or sleep apnea. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) note that insomnia is a common problem when you’re 60 and older. Other problems that could affect your sleep include:
- Sleep apnea, a condition in which you may experience short pauses in breathing and snoring while asleep
- Movement disorders such as restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or interruptions to your sleep, we recommend that you discuss this with your doctor or health care provider. They’ll be able to help you find solutions to help you get a better night’s sleep for your overall and brain health.
5. Boost brain health with social engagements
Staying socially engaged may help keep your brain healthy. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress which contribute to memory loss. In addition to spending time with family and friends, volunteering can be a great way to make social connections as we get older. Joining a volunteer group is a great way to meet people with common commitments, interests, and values. If you’re looking to get to know your community, start by finding ways to help your neighbors! Check out our blog to learn more about the benefits of volunteering.
We want to help you keep your brain healthy as you get older! If you have any questions, give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.