Cheryl Greenberg, Ed.D., works as a coach, or guide, for seniors and their families as they consider and plan for changes in their personal and work lives. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-202-5669.
We all know that we feel good when we’re active, eat well, and have enjoyable jobs and social lives. However, we don’t always realize how important good lifestyle choices are for our bodies and brains.
Is it possible, for example, to have “stronger” brains that improve our ability to remember and think? Can we delay some diseases and avoid others?
Many lifestyle choices are equally beneficial for our brains and our bodies. Let’s look at some of them.
Exercise improves blood flow to all parts of the body. Each time the heart beats, 25 percent of the blood it pumps goes to the brain to deliver nutrients and remove waste.
How much should you exercise? Many experts suggest 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, with attention to cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance.
Look for foods that are high in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt, and simple carbohydrates. Healthy food choices can improve physical health and brain function.
So, what should you eat? A good starting point is lots of vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors for the various nutrients each supplies; limited amounts of lean proteins, such as meat, poultry, seeds, and nuts; several servings of fish each week; complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain wheat and rolled oats; and healthy fats, such as olive oil.
Keep track of health issues, medications, stress, and injuries to the head.
Some medications interfere with memory function and clear thinking. Interactions of two or more medications may make the problem more severe. Similarly, illnesses (even what seem like minor illnesses), chronic stress, and injuries can have a negative effect on memory and problem-solving.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist about the impact of medications that you buy over-the-counter or by prescription and have regular medical checkups.
All people, regardless of age, need extended, fairly uninterrupted sleep to restore the body and strengthen new memories. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Wake up during the night? It’s best not to fret. Just try again later.
Challenges at work, home, in the community, and with hobbies increase our feelings of well-being and pride (good for releasing “healthy” hormones), and build the capacity of our brains to remember and process. Join a book club. Learn to play the guitar. Improve your golf game. Try a crossword puzzle that’s just a little more difficult than you’re used to. Take part in new or advanced activities that engage your brain.
From dinner dates to volunteer activities, being with other people gives individuals a chance to learn, problem solve, have fun, and reduce stress … all good for the brain and body.