Keeping Your Brain Fit
Is your brain fit? Have you exercised it today?
Let’s take a moment to give your brain a quick checkup. Your brain is the control center for your body. Just like any piece of equipment we need to take care of it so that it runs efficiently and will last a lifetime.
How well you age depends on three things:
- your genes or family health history,
- the environment with which you live, learn, earn and play in.
- the lifestyle choices you make every day.
The other organ which is essential for your brain and body function is your heart. The heart and the brain work in harmony with one another to keep you alive. If your heart is not working well, that can cause a reduction of blood flow to the brain. The brain needs oxygen and ample blood flow to work at its best. Roughly 25% of the blood from each heartbeat goes to the brain.
It is important to take care of your brain as you age. There are four areas we need to focus on to get our brains fit. They are:
- cognitive activity,
- physical health and exercise,
- diet and nutrition, and
- social engagement.
What we know about brain health
Keeping your mind active forms new connections among your brain cells. Learning new ideas encourages blood flow to the brain. Be sure to engage in activities that stimulate the brain to improve cognitive function. Engaging in formal education is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and it can provide protection against developing dementia.
Physical health and exercise
Research has shown that regular and vigorous physical activity increases blood flow to the brain. This cardiovascular activity may reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Diet and nutrition
Nutritious food is fuel for the brain and your heart. Eating a nutritious diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke and diabetes. Just like the old adage, you are what you eat!
Social engagement is associated with living longer and with fewer disabilities. Staying involved in activities in your community helps you to maintain your skills. Remaining socially and mentally active may support brain health and possibly delay the onset of dementia.
What can we do?
Read a book, complete a puzzle, learn a new skill or hobby and become a lifelong learner.
Check with your doctor before you start and get moving! Any movement is better than no movement! Start out small and safely. If you smoke make a plan to quit. Avoid excess alcohol and manage your stress. Be sure to get plenty of sleep. Your brain needs this time to rest, organize and rejuvenate itself. Protect your head with a helmet. See your doctor regularly to monitor your numbers. Take action to manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol.
Diet and nutrition
East your fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose nuts, beans and legumes more often. Keep your meat and poultry lean and include fish at least 2 times a week. Choose heart healthy oils. Work in partnership with your doctor when choosing to take a vitamin or dietary supplement.
Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Choose less often these products; processed foods, solid fat, sugar and salt, deep fried foods and unhealthy fast food. Moderation is the key for having a healthy diet.
Go visit family and friends. Stay involved in your community, become a volunteer!
Extension has numerous opportunities to volunteer from 4-H youth development to Master Gardeners to Master Foodies, Master Naturalists, Extension Foundation and VITA tax help. There are so many things you can do. No matter what your interest, we think Extension volunteering offer opportunities to learn, make new friends, feel a sense of accomplishment, and have fun.
So what is the take home message? Keep your brain fit by moving, eating right, keeping your brain active and staying connected with others.
Source: Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research. Alzheimer’s Association.