A healthy body and healthy mind are inextricably entwined. We know that 30 minutes of exercise each day will keep the body healthy, but what about the mind? Here are three ways that you can help to support a healthy aging mind for your loved one.1. Challenge the Mind: The best activity to maintain brain health is to learn a new language and challenge the brain’s neurons to grow. However, your loved one may not be interested in this task and their health may make it too rigorous. There are other mentally stimulating games that are fun and interesting. Reader’s Digest suggests three that are particularly interesting:
- Brush Teeth With the Non-Dominant Hand: Research has shown that using the opposite side of your brain (as in this exercise) can result in a rapid and substantial expansion in the parts of the cortex that control and process tactile information from the hand. (Don’t forget to open the tube and apply toothpaste in reverse, too.)
- Play “10 Things”: Forcing the brain to think of alternates to the every day will help keep it strong. Hand your loved one an ordinary object and ask him or her to demonstrate ten different “things” that the object might be. Example: A fly swatter might be a tennis racket, a golf club, a fan, a baton, a drumstick, a violin, a shovel, a microphone, a baseball bat, or a canoe paddle.
- Read Differently: When we read aloud or listen to reading, we use very different brain circuits than when we read silently to ourselves. Read aloud to your loved one and then alternate the roles of reader and listener. It may be slow to get through a book, but as a bonus, you’ll spend quality time together.
Other mentally stimulating activities that keep the mind active include math problems and experimenting with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental efforts, like drawing, painting, and other crafts.
2. Get Physical Exercise: Harvard Medical School says that one of the top three ways to support a healthy aging mind is to get exercise. Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. Directly it benefits the brain by improving health. It reduces insulin resistance and stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affects the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety. Essentially, exercise keeps the brain more efficient.
3. Improve Your Diet: Eating well and drinking enough water will benefit the brain and keep it healthy. The brain needs nutrients just like the rest of the body does. Good nutrition for the brain includes the following:
- Absorb More Nutrients With Pepper: Black pepper contains piperine, which can increase food nutrient absorption by up to 25%. By adding black pepper to salads, sauces and cooked meats, the elevated digestion enzymes that result allow the food to travel through the system more quickly, which also reduces constipation.
- Add More Vitamins by the Handful: Include a variety of vegetables, fruits and protein for an assortment of vitamins. Try different cooking methods too: when eaten raw, our bodies can absorb more folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium found in spinach. When spinach is steamed, the body is better able to assimilate its beta-carotene and antioxidant properties.
- Add More Healthy Fats: Not all fats are the same. Olive oils and nut oils can actually help lower the bad cholesterol, raise the good cholesterol and allow our bodies to better accept nutrients such as beta-carotene. Avocados, coconut oil and nuts provide excellent unsaturated fats and are versatile in that they can easily be added to smoothies or other dishes.
- Consume More Foods With Probiotics: Probiotics can assist digestion by encouraging “good” bacteria to grow in the gut, which we need for proper and consistent breakdown. Raw onions, raw garlic, bananas and artichokes can increase this effect. Other foods that provide “good” bacteria growth include fermented foods and drinks, such as Kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. These foods will create a better environment for nutrient absorption overall.
- Boost What’s Already Good: Some foods can enrich what already exists in a healthy meal. For example, vitamin C has properties that increase the ability to absorb the iron found in a dish. For example, by eating spaghetti Bolognese, we get the most iron out of the beef by introducing the vitamin C found in the tomato sauce.
The top five brain foods are blueberries, citrus foods (oranges, grapefruit etc.), nuts, fish, and avocados. Try having some of these super foods everyday!
Our mission at Home Care Assistance Prescott is to change the way the world ages. We provide older adults with quality care in Prescott and surrounding areas inluding Sedona, that enables them to live happier, healthier lives at home. Our services are distinguished by the caliber of our caregivers, the responsiveness of our staff and our expertise in live-in care. We embrace a positive, balanced approach to aging centered on the evolving needs of older adults. Contact us today and find out how we can help you or a loved one today!