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Keeping Your Brain Healthy
It is normal as you get older to occasionally forget a word or misplace your keys. But if you are worried about staving off dementia, or if you just want to stay sharp no matter what your age, there are things you can do to protect your brain health.
BrainHealth.gov, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, is a website designed to raise awareness about brain health. It offers several suggestions for keeping your brain sharp and healthy:
Be active. Staying or getting active seems to help your brain stay or get healthy. For brain health, it is important to keep active enough to get your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes on most days. You can do specific exercises such as jogging or cycling, or you can just run around with your kids or grandkids.
Eat well. A diet that is low in calories and fat and high in vegetables and fruits can help you stay sharp – as well as keep your weight down and your cardiovascular system healthy. Some studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet – high in fish, vegetables and olive oil – can help prevent dementia in some people.
Watch your drinking. As you age, alcohol can affect you differently. You might feel the effects after drinking less, which could make you more prone to accidents. There also is research that suggests that excessive drinking might contribute to dementia.
Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep – or not getting good enough sleep – is bad for your body as well as your brain. You should strive to get seven to eight hours of sleep on most nights.
Learn something new, like a new language or a new skill. Learning is like a workout for your brain cells, so the more you do that, the healthier and more fit your brain can be.
Be social. Isolation and loneliness are bad on so many levels, and one of those levels is brain health. Staying connected to family and friends is critical to staying sharp. Nurture your social connections – join a club or a faith congregation, make lunch plans with friends, volunteer for something important to you.
Keep in touch with your doctor. If you have questions about your brain health – or any aspect of your health -- talk to your doctor about it. He or she might be able to tell you whether what you are experiencing is simply a natural part of aging or a cause for concern. And if there is cause for concern, the earlier you identify the problem, the more likely it is that medical science will be able to help.