Brain Power

I’ve been teaching a nutrition class for senior adults for over seven years. We meet once a week. The majority of attendees have come to the class since it began. It’s awesome. We cover a lot of topics from diabetes to hypertension to stress management and kidney disease. But of late, a big topic of conversation has been memory loss and dementia.

As we age, normal memory lapses can occur. Many of us have gone through it. Episodes of forgetting where we put our car keys, or an item on your mental “to do” list are normal. I’ve even from time to time called one of my dogs by the other one’s name, and even called my husband by one of my two dog’s names. They’re Murray and Phil, so they’re human male names. So it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s not like I’ve called him Rover or Spot!

What I tell my clients is that it’s always important to stimulate our brains. This is true at any age. So what can we do to help keep us sharp? Here are some tips:

• Exercise regularly. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. In addition to aerobic activities, add in strength and flexibility exercises several days a week as well.
• Eat a healthy balanced diet. Enjoy fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, lean protein (limit red meat) and appropriate low fat or nonfat dairy servings.
• Eat your colors and make sure to add in blueberries or other dark berries in your diet.
• Include fish in your diet at least twice a week. Or speak with your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement.
• Soy products may also be helpful to brain health.
• Avoid saturated and trans fats. Choose monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
• Drink green, oolong and white teas.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Manage blood sugar and cholesterol.
• Get adequate uninterrupted sleep.
• Stay socially active.
• Test your brain by things like eating with your non-dominant hand or taking a different route to work, home or the store. (Don’t get lost!) Try learning a new language (my senior adult nutrition class is now learning French). Pick up a new hobby. Think of other mind-challenging things that you can do and then do them.
• Don’t stress out so much. Use stress management techniques like meditation, bubble baths, exercise, journaling and more.
• Protect your brain by not tripping and falling. Check your house for curling throw rugs and exposed cords, be mindful and aware when walking, keep a night light in your bedroom if you get up in the night, be safe when climbing ladders, and wear helmets when biking, skateboarding and more.

While the above list may be long, it shouldn’t be an overwhelming one. Many of us are already doing a lot of these things. They help us with overall health. We need our brains, so don’t forget that we need to feed and work it well.


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