We have good reason to worry about losing mental function as we age. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, in 2010 an estimated 35.6 million people worldwide were living with dementia, a number that is expected to nearly double every 20 years.
But don’t despair, advises Robert Bender Jr., M.D., medical director and geriatrician at the Healthy Aging and Memory Clinic in West Des Moines and an adjunct faculty member in DMU’s family medicine department. At the Heartland Global Health Consortium Conference held at DMU on Oct. 12, he offered 10 basic tips for brain wellness.
➊ Socialize: “Human beings are meant to be connected,” Bender said. Interacting with others on superficial (the friendly grocery store staff), intellectual (workmates, fellow book club members) and intimate (loved ones) levels all helps.
➌ Reserve one day a week for down time, spiritual expression and rest.
➍ Manage stress. Prolonged stress raises cortisol levels in your body, which weakens your immune system and decreases the number of brain cells, shrinking memory.
➏ Use your talents to help yourself and others. Maintain a sense of purpose.
➐ Avoid head injuries.
➒ Practice brain wellness by learning new and diverse things. “When we combine new learning with physical exercise, the new brain cells in our memory centers thrive.”
➓ Maximize your spiritual side. Nurture your inner self with reflection and a focus on what’s really important in life.