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. Follow these 10 basic tips for brain health:
- 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.
- Exercise: “It’s incredible the type of condition we can get into with just 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a day. When we exercise, the brain is stimulated with greater blood flow.”
- Reserve one day a week for down time, spiritual expression and rest.
- Manage stress. Prolonged stress raises cortisol levels in your body, which weakens your immune system and decreases the number of brain cells, shrinking memory.
- Consume nothing in excess.
- Use your talents to help yourself and others. Maintain a sense of purpose.
- Avoid head injuries.
- Have a good health care team.
- 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.”
- Maximize your spiritual side. Nurture your inner self with reflection and a focus on what’s really important in life.