Health
May 27, 2018
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Steps that protect cognitive vitality 

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
April 13, 2018
Navigating the aging journey

Alzheimer’s experts encourage the following approaches to reduce your chance of ever getting a dementia diagnosis.

Food for thought: Eat for your brain

Evidence has been steadily growing and showing that specific diets such as the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets—are highly likely to support brain health. They have found the healthiest, most balanced options include whole foods such as:

•Fish

•Nuts

•Vegetables rich in vitamins, nutrients

•Omega-3 fatty acids

Doctors are also encouraging prevention by making sure you:

Get plenty of sleep

Impaired sleep has continued to contribute to cognitive decline. Now researchers are speculating that it could also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. To better protect yourself and your brain, make certain you establish a regular bedtime routine. It is always best to maintain a regular sleep schedule, as well as to treat sleep-disordered breathing like apnea. Some experts are quick to remind us not to eat or exercise within 2–3 hours of bedtime. They also remind us to avoid over-use of sleeping pills. Doctors don’t want you to induce sleep with alcohol, especially if you experience restless legs syndrome. The National Sleep Foundation has great resources for helping improve sleep.

Movement

Exercise can obviously help protect against brain aging while also improving mental function. We are slowly learning how important it is to avoid long bouts of physical inactivity. It is also essential to engage in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes and for at least three to five days a week. Many have started utilizing wearable fitness trackers and apps to track progress that leads to staying fit.

Reducing stress

Prolonged stress is harmful to anyone’s brain. It leads to fatigue, restless sleep, lousy concentration and even lapses in memory. Protect yourself. Make changes to your lifestyle and learn new ways to cope. The CDC gives tips for reducing stress and so does this TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” For many people, pets are a wonderful stress reliever. Learn about pet adoption at ASPCA, or at your local animal shelter.  

Socialize  

Loneliness is toxic. It produces depression and impairs cognitive health. This causes memory loss as well as attention deficits. It is vital to build and maintain social connections. If you do experience depression, get support. 

Both the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance deliver resources that help manage both anxiety and depression.

Always keep learning

Stimulate your brain throughout your life. Always be willing to engage intellectually. Education at any age seems to help protect against cognitive decline. Consider taking a class or volunteering to keep your brain fit while staying socially engaged. Visit Experience Corps, Volunteer Match, Serve.gov, orfVolunteer.gov to learn more.

Manage chronic illness

There are chronic diseases that raise the risk of dementia. There are also medications that can impair your brain’s function. You need to review your medications and supplements with your physician regularly. Always work actively with your health practitioners to help manage your brain health. Once you feel you have the right treatment plan, always make sure to take your approach seriously and any medications as directed. Remember to check with your pharmacist or check online for new resources with new information on drug interactions with dementia risks. Pharmacists are one of the most underutilized medical professionals we have access to, engage them in your medical decisions and concerns.

The Alzheimer’s Association and Home Instead Senior Care will be presenting Dementia and Brain Health Essentials, a half day educational forum for inspiration, information and support. This half-day education forum will offer insight into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, information on making lifestyle choices that may keep your brain and body healthy as you age and strategies on improving overall communication skills in connecting with memory impaired individuals. The program ends with information on where to turn for help in Sonoma County. Join us on June 26th 2018 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Star of the Valley Catholic Church in Monsignor Fahey Parish Center 495 White Oak Drive, Santa Rosa. The program is free, but registration is required. Call 800.272.3900 to register. Other online resources to protect cognitive vitality can be found at either www.caregiverstress.comor www.helpforalzheimersfamiles.com

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’s love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.