Everybody forgets something! There is a heightened awareness – even fear – of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia especially as we all advance in years, but simple forgetfulness does not inevitably lead to a dementia. And if you are a caregiver, the older adult in your orbit may be very self-conscious or worried at having misplaced the car keys. Or maybe it is blanking on a favorite author or the name of a friend that they happen upon on the store. No one of these events means that dementia of any sort is encroaching on their faculties, but sometimes it is not enough to reassure an older adult that it is not what they fear. It can be helpful, however, to take specific actions that are known to help keep one’s brain healthy and sharp.
Let me share five helpful tips from a well-regarded neurologist named Dr. Majid Fotuhi. You may have seen him on Dr. Oz, if you follow the program. Some say Dr. Fotuhi’s advice can even prevent Alzheimer’s; you be the judge. At the very least, these steps can help to strengthen the brain of virtually anyone who puts in the effort.
1. Cross-Train: Anyone who exercises routinely knows that it is important to trade off the activities of your work out; they call it cross-training. Try changing which hand you use to comb your hair or take a different route to the store or use a soup spoon with your non-dominant hand. It is not easy, but it challenges your brain to learn something new, and as the brain adjusts to this shift it rises to the challenge by using areas of the brain that may have been under-utilized before.
2. Relax: Stress is not just bad for your cardiovascular system; it is harmful to the brain because it releases a stress hormone called cortisol. So, several times each day, go to a quiet, darkened room and practice deep, slow breathing. Change out of clothing that may be restrictive and remove your shoes to signal your brain you are serious about relaxing. Do this for seven minutes.
3. Mnemonicize Something: Okay, so the real word is simply “mnemonic. Challenge your brain to remember five spices from a recipe by making a word out them: Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Tarragon, Sage. See how long you can make the word or use the first letters to make a silly sentence.
4. Increase Blood Flow: If your doctor says you are sufficiently healthy, walk up and down the stairs a few times, do ten push-ups, or do twenty sit-ups. All of these will raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain, and that will grow new brain cells.
5. Infuse DHA: There is a nutritional supplement called docosahexaenoic acid which is an omega-3 fatty acid which just happens to make up a large part of your brain matter. You can get it from fish that come from colder sea water, and it also can be purchased in your drug store or health food store. It has been shown to promote a healthier, even younger brain.
If you want to learn more about any of this, Please check out Dr. Oz’s web site.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified 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.