Wise Health Tips for An Aging Brain by Amy Scholten, MPH –
Cute birthday cards jab us about wrinkles, sagging, memory loss and other “gifts” of longevity, and most of us laugh in resignation. But researchers at the Aging Center at Columbia University found that rejecting negative aging stereotypes can help us avoid their self-fulfilling consequences. It’s never too early or too late to program your brain for healthy aging. Here are some tips:
Remind yourself that you’re an individual and not a stereotype. Some people are “old” at 60 and others are “young” at 85. The important question is how old is your thinking? Are you jaded and set in your ways or are you open to new experiences?
Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes, and reduces stress, all of which help your brain as well as your body. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (full of antioxidants) and regular sleep also help us maintain a healthy body and mind.
Find positive role models who defy aging stereotypes. Every community has active seniors that are fully engaged in life as they work, run marathons, dance, paint, publish books, play music, and teach others. Who inspires you?
Get lots of mental stimulation – the brain is like the body – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Look for enjoyable activities that engage your attention and concentration.
Build strong social ties. Getting out and building relationships with others helps to ward off depression, mental and physical decline.
Try something new to break up your routine. Each week try a new restaurant, a new activity, or take a trip someplace you’ve never been before.
Loosen up and laugh. Humor stimulates the parts of our brain that use dopamine, a chemical messenger that makes us feel good.
Listen to a variety of music. According to research at Johns Hopkins University, listening to music gives our brain a total workout. It can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, and mental alertness. Listen to songs that evoke pleasant memories and positive feelings.
And finally, consider write your memoir. Everyone’s life is a unique story waiting to be told, and personal reflection is a meaningful way to discover what you’ve learned. A good starting point is to pick some meaningful memories and write them down. What experiences have shaped your wisdom? What would you like to pass along to your loved ones?
Amy Scholten, MPH, is a medical writer and owner of SunCare Wellness Advocacy, a companion service for seniors. She also helps older adults write their memoir and other narratives about their life story. She can be reached at SunCareWellness@gmail.com or 941-445-7144.