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Published on: March 26, 2013
by Paula Johnson for U~T San Diego:
Many people believe aging is symbiotic with memory loss. The words dementia and Alzheimer’s disease weigh heavy on our hearts. We fear it will happen to us or even scarier – to our loved ones. We think if we do not talk about it, it will never become a reality or we make jokes about getting older and losing our minds to lighten the mood.
This aloof and fearful attitude stems from the belief that there is nothing we can do to improve our brain function. Although there currently isn’t a cure for memory loss you can still activate neuroplasticity (which is how the brain heals) at any age.
The acronym, B.R.A.I.N. – beliefs, relationships, activities, ignite and nutrition are five areas you can work on to slow memory loss.
• Beliefs are the first step to brain health. Write down three positive and three negative things on how you view aging. If you believe that when you get older you will just fade away and die, it is time to start changing how you think. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and celebrate more of life’s victories. Develop a belief system which provides comfort and meaning and find new ways of coping with life’s changes.
• Relationships are key to brain health. Relationships take time and effort but you need social interaction to maintain brain function. Conversations, social events and leisure activities are important to keep your mind active and your brain fit. You should also avoid the pitfalls of isolation and dysfunctional relationships because they interfere with physical and mental health. You need the support of others as you encounter life’s changes and the emotional upheaval they sometimes create. Friends can help you cope with stress so that your energy and emotions are available for healthy living.
• Activities are important because brain health is dependent on body health. Something as little as three hours of brisk walking each week can have a positive outcome on your brain, such as reduction of brain shrinkage, an increase in the number of neurons and greater connections between neurons.
• Ignite your brain with mental exercises. Learning new information, problem solving and critical thinking promotes brain fitness. Some examples are playing bridge, chess, doing crossword puzzles, taking classes or workshops and learning a new language. Mental exercises force you to maintain an alert state for a sustained period of time. It also makes you focus your attention on critical information and not be distracted by other elements. Lastly, it helps you regulate emotional responses and sensory information while analyzing data, anticipating future responses, recalling past strategies and problem solving.
• Nutrition is the last key to brain health. Eating healthy is not just for losing weight or preventing physical diseases – studies prove it also helps with your overall brain function. Filling your body with unhealthy food is like partially filling the gas tank of your car or putting in an inferior grade of gas – the vehicle may run, but its performance will be affected.
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