By Jessica Higgs, Providence Point Fitness Coordinator
How we age is determined, in part, by what we do with our years. And what we CAN do in our later years is dependent on our brain health. Participants in the weekly Boost Your Brain class at Providence Point often ask, “How can I keep my brain active and fight off dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease?” The answer, live a brain-healthy life.
A brain-healthy life means doing things on a daily basis to keep our brain functioning to the best of its ability. According to educator and world renowned author Paul Nussbaum, PhD, a Clinical Neuropsychologist with the University of Pittsburgh, our brains have the capability to form new neurons until the day we die. He has identified five components to a proactive brain-healthy lifestyle. (www.paulnussbaum.com) These are socialization, spirituality, mental stimulation, nutrition, and physical activity. In our Boost Your Brain class, we discuss ways to incorporate these components into our everyday lives.
Socialization: Stay connected to friends and family. Meet new people, engage in conversation, find what we have in common with one another. Get involved in a church or community group, or try a new hobby to keep social circles—and our brains—healthy.
Spirituality: We know the effect stress has on our bodies and our brains. Taking control and focusing on our spirituality gives us meaning, keeps us grounded, and teaches us how to deal with the stress of day-to-day life.
Mental stimulation: It is crucial to brain health to stimulate, challenge, and keep our brain active. Whether it’s reading, writing, or doing puzzles of any sort—just keep on doing it.
Nutrition: We know we need to eat a well-balanced diet for our bodies to remain healthy. The same goes for our brains. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and healthy fats helps the brain function properly as we age.
Physical: Exercise is vital. Research shows that physical activity lowers the risk of memory loss and dementia as we age. It’s no wonder; with every heart beat 25 percent of your blood travels to your brain.
I frequently remind my Boost your Brain class that their weekly attendance is a good start to good brain health, but it is MORE important to incorporate these five components into their daily lives. All five factors work together to create a brain-healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Nussbaum says, “Exposure to enriched environments across your lifespan will lead to new brain cell development and increased cellular connections.” In simple terms, it means we are never too old to learn or try something new. It doesn’t necessarily mean taking a class. You can educate yourself on a new topic—maybe something you have always wanted to try, or a topic you wanted to gain more knowledge about. A hobby, a foreign language, or learning to cook a new cuisine will challenge and nourish the brain.
I encourage you to jump right in. Keeping your brain healthy is simple if you commit to learning, doing, trying, and sharing throughout your life.
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