With the number of new cases of Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. projected to increase by 130% in 2030 compared to 2000, it should be an important motivator to make your good intentions a reality, says Dr. Paul Nussbaum. He is the director of brain health for Emeritus Senior Living and clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
1. Mental ExerciseThe NIH-supported journal "Health and Social Work" describes how learning and other measures can foster new neurons and new neural connections even into one's senior years. "Knowing that brain fitness practices have the potential to delay dementia's onset, I encourage everyone to begin the New Year by making brain fitness part of their lives," Nussbaum said.
The phrase "Use it or lose it" applies to the brain, which craves stimulation and challenges. Engage in mental activities that aren't initially easy for you, whether it's learning a new language, taking up Scrabble or another pastime you haven't tried before. Doing so will stimulate the cortex and build brain reserve.
2. Physical ExerciseStarting an exercise program is another key step.
"Walking daily, dancing and other forms of aerobic activity help blood flow to the brain," Nussbaum said.
3. Diet & NutritionAdopting a healthy diet is also important. Nussbaum recommends cutting down on processed foods in favor of those that nourish the brain.
"Fruits and vegetables are beneficial for cognitive health," he said. "So are foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as certain fish and nuts, and antioxidants, which are foods containing vitamins A, C or E."
4. SocializationSocialization can also have a positive impact on your brain. Make an effort to connect and spend time with other people, in person rather than virtually.
Research shows that isolation and loneliness increase the risk of developing dementia. Socializing, on the other hand, gives the brain a broad workout. It requires a person to think, remember, see, talk, listen, move and express themselves in ways that use almost every part of the brain. Functional MRIs can display the different parts of the brain firing up based on their level of activity. There are few actions that can compare to socializing's ability to cause so many parts of the brain to fire away all at the same time.
5. SpiritualityResearch suggests that stress, which has been shown to adversely affect animal brains, is also detrimental for those of humans. It's important to slow down and take the time to engage in spirituality in the way that is most comfortable for you, whether its through daily prayer and regular formal worship or by meditating and reflecting.
Enjoy Brain Fitness"The statistics about Alzheimer's disease are alarming and they demonstrate how crucial it is to adopt a brain fitness program," Nussbaum said. "As 2013 begins, please resolve to incorporate brain health into your daily life. Besides knowing you are engaging in an important practice with lifelong benefits, I think you will find you truly enjoy it."
More information on brain health, including a survey and activities, are available at Emeritus.com/new-year's-brain-health.
About Emeritus Senior Living
Emeritus Senior Living is the nation's largest assisted living and memory care provider, with the ability to serve nearly 50,000 residents. More than 28,000 employees support more than 470 communities throughout 44 states coast to coast. Emeritus offers the spectrum of senior residential choices, care options and life enrichment programs that fulfill individual needs and promote purposeful living throughout the aging process. Its experts provide insights on senior living, care, wellness, brain health, caregiving and family topics at www.Emeritus.com, which also offers details on the organization's services. Emeritus is based in Seattle, Wash.; Emeritus common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ESC.
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