Over the years, we’ve learned more and more about the role that our brains play in overall wellness. This powerhouse of an organ runs everything in your body, from your physical movements to your emotional state and more. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on keeping our brains healthy as we age, particularly since memory decline is a common occurrence as we get older.
“There is a reason why little memory lapses are known as senior moments,” says Michele Wasserlauf, Executive Director at The Terraces at Bonita Springs. “Our mental capabilities start do slow in our 60s and 70s, and that’s natural – just like how our physical abilities decline, especially if we aren’t vigilant about using them.”
That’s why, says Michele, it’s important for seniors to take steps to keep memory and brain health as strong as possible. “Our brains are very much the definition of use it or lose it,” Michele explains. “Taking steps now to keep your brain running at peak performance will pay off greatly as you age.”
In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we’ve put together some information on how to improve brain health and memory function. These are all things that you can start putting into practice today, no matter how old or young you may be.
How Can You Protect Your Brain from Cognitive Decline?
When we hear the words cognitive decline, many of us automatically jump to the conclusion that we’re talking about dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. However, cognitive decline is simply the decline of mental function due to age or another underlying reason. According to the article “25 Ways To Improve Your Memory,” our brains are particularly adept at forming new connections and strengthening mental sharpness even once cognitive decline is experienced. Here are some lifestyle tips to follow.
Learn something new. Taking a class, learning a language, playing an instrument or picking up a new hobby are all great ways to get your brain active and engaged. Learning a new skill requires repetition, problem-solving, memory skills and curiosity. These are all important factors when it comes to keeping brain cells active and brains healthy. As with any form of exercise – which learning a new activity can be – it’s important to choose something that interests you and doesn’t force you to go at a breakneck pace. Brain exercises, crossword puzzles and other cognitive games are great ways to enhance memory and improve cognitive abilities.
Eat a healthy diet. Our diet influences so many aspects of our overall health. Eating a diet that is focused on keeping your heart healthy will provide benefits for your cardiovascular system and your brain (since the brain is fueled by the oxygen-rich blood that is pumped through your body). It’s important to check with your doctor and get medical advice about any dietary restrictions or needs you might have, but here are some general rules to follow:
- Choose dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach and Swiss chard
- Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish like mackerel and sardines
- Opt for healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados and other nuts and seeds
- Snack on berries and dark chocolate, which are rich in antioxidants and can help your body fight against free radicals
- Look for other brain-boosting vitamins and minerals like beta carotene
Get regular amounts of exercise. Exercise goes hand in hand with a healthy diet as a tentpole of a healthy lifestyle. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least 5 days a week. Exercise can be just about anything that gets your heart pumping and your blood moving. Gardening, walking around the block, dancing and cleaning the house are all acceptable and beneficial forms of exercise.
Hang out with friends and family. Staying socially connected boosts brain health in many ways. Being social reduces stress, improves mood, stabilizes emotions, keeps us mentally active and boosts serotonin production in our brains (the “happy” hormone). A lot of times, social events can be paired with other brain-healthy activities like exercise or taking a class. It’s also been proven that eating with others helps older adults eat healthier and make better food choices. So when you’re going out to dinner, having coffee with a friend or going on a walk together, you’re not just nurturing relationships – you’re feeding your brain!
Get quality sleep regularly.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your brain health. Recent research has found that restful sleep helps to clear our brains of beta amyloids, which are proteins that have been linked to the development of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. In order to get the best possible rest, make sure that you practice good sleep hygiene. This includes making sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature and is dark and quiet. Having a nighttime routine can help get your body and mind ready for sleep, too. Be sure to avoid alcohol and caffeine too late at night, and be sure to turn off any screens at least one hour before bedtime.
“Senior living communities like The Terraces at Bonita Springs encourage a brain-healthy lifestyle,” says Michele. “With senior living events, nutritious meals, engaging activities and events, socialization opportunities, fitness classes and more, seniors will find that keeping their brains healthy and active has never been easier – or more fun.”
About The Terraces at Bonita Springs
Recreation, special events, holiday celebrations, educational programs, guest speakers and a variety of inspiring activities take place throughout the year at The Terraces at Bonita Springs as part of the community’s active lifestyle programs. The Terraces is the only Life Plan Community for senior living in the Bonita Springs area. Living choices include independent living, assisted living, memory support, skilled nursing and rehabilitation. All levels of care, including assisted living, skilled nursing and memory support, are open for direct admittance with no entrance fee.
For more information, visit TheTerracesAtBonitaSprings.com or call 239-221-8907.