Because I work in geriatric care, it almost goes without saying that I talk with a lot of people who have had a lot of birthdays. In conversations with these older adults and with their caregivers, I have learned some important lessons in elder care management about how to have a healthy brain. Much of what I am sharing here also is supported by the scientific literature; see what you think.
- Healthy brains get out more. I hear older adults talk about how being active is important, and they don’t mean hardcore exercise. They mean socializing. Having friends and a social life also exercises the brain as older adults engage others in stimulating conversation, remembering names and more.
- Healthy brains are challenged. The older adults I meet who have the most “on the ball” minds also tend to have stimulating hobbies like doing crossword puzzles, going to the theater or reading books. While a bit of television or other visual stimulation is good, it can degrade into very isolating behavior that should be avoided.
- Healthy brains are fit. Where the feet run (or walk), the brain will follow. Think of exercise as a chance to flush the brain with blood flow, and it will result in actually growing new brain cells.
- Healthy brains need to be fed well. The foods that are good for your cardiovascular system like those low in cholesterol or high in phytonutrients will benefit the brain as well as the heart. And just as a healthy heart will do well with alcohol or caffeine in moderation, the brain also will benefit from the same.
- Healthy brains chill out. No matter the age, there will be stressors in life. The key is to find ways to cope with and move through the stress. Some of the above – like physical exercise – can be part of the stress management that is important to being mentally healthy.
- Healthy brains believe in something. While it is not one faith or one way of spirituality, researchers have found that people who believe in something greater or have a higher sense of life’s mission also have healthier brains and live longer.
All of these may seem like a lot to juggle to achieve brain health, but not to stress. Think of all of these elements of brain healthiness to be incremental ways you can pay forward to your brain’s longevity and your brain will return the favor by helping you to navigate a happier and longer life.
Charlotte Bishop is founder of Creative Care Management, certified geriatric care management professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.