Brain health is essentially like any other kind of health. Use it or it withers away like leg muscles that don’t do any walking. The human body is put together the way it is for a purpose. When all the little parts are working or exercised, the various systems that are affected can do their job properly, whether they are digestive, muscular, or central nervous system. The brain is a part of the central nervous system, which of course influences the whole body.
The Alzheimer’s Association has laid out some guidelines for good brain health. Four categories are involved.
- Cognitive activity is one of the most important things a person can do to achieve a healthy brain. This means actual thinking, reading, discussing, watching documentaries, or doing puzzles. Taking a class would work. Writing a book would work.
- Diet and certain types of food are necessary for brain health. Fish is highly recommended. This same diet is heart healthy as well. A person should eat low fat, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Cut out some of the sugar and red meats. Replace butter with olive oil. It is basically the same diet that has been recommended by doctors for years.
- A healthy lifestyle will affect the brain. This means physical health and exercise must be daily activities. Walking, hiking, and dancing will do. So will a yoga class. The key here is to actually get some physical activity on a daily basis. It needs to be an entrenched habit, done as a matter of course. Get out of bed and go for a walk or ride a bike. Bike riding is as much fun now as it was at seven years old. But do wear the protective gear, helmets, knee pads, etc.
- Social engagement can be difficult for people who have been going through major life changes, such as the death of a spouse, moving to a smaller place, or suffering a serious health problem. To get back into a social routine, join a group of like-minded individuals. Book readers get the double stimulation of reading and discussing. This is an especially good time to enjoy the political hi-jinxes all around us. Other people might prefer some sort of music group, or they might like to take a class and learn something entirely new, like art history or how to use a computer.
In October 2015, AARP started the Global Council on Brain Health. AARP collaborated with Age UK in the formulation of this exclusive and necessary group. The group is made up of scientists, scholars, doctors, and other policy experts. These are individuals who see the need for study of the brain and its health, especially with the longer lifespans we have today.
Maintaining and improving brain health is one of the goals of this organization. The GCBH will use modern science experimentation and technological breakthroughs to debate and study all pertinent data. Then they will create practical recommendations and clear trustworthy information for clients who need it.
AARP also points out that a hearing aid may help with dementia cases. Also, stress can cause memory lapses, so can lack of proper sleep, and lack of proper exercise as well. There is a section on brain games too. AARP’s choices include Countdown, which is a really hard math game. Two were solvable, one was not.
Elephant memory is when you have 60 seconds to memorize a long list of words. There are other games involving shapes and colors, guessing which animal calls go with which animal, and guessing words in foreign languages. There is an interesting variety of games on AARP’s website. It would be a challenging game stopover for anyone looking for a creative game. Some of the games are visual and some are memory games. They are complicated enough to make looking through them fun.
An interesting definition of brain health is given by BrainHealth.gov. It is the ability to remember, to learn, to plan, and to concentrate. The brain’s mission is to make sense of the world and oversee daily operations.
The best way to keep the brain healthy is to keep it active. Encourage it to think occasionally. This can be done by reading, watching documentaries, and certainly by doing crossword puzzles and maybe a little Sudoku.
Having conversations with small children is always good for the brain. Pet care and interaction will also help in keeping the brain active. Neighbors are always good for a chat too.