Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 18 : Fall 2013 - Page 20

Keeping Your Brain Healthy and Sharp Maintaining the health of your brain as you age is just as important as staying physically fit. In fact, many studies show that brain fitness can play an important role in warding off age-related dementia. According to the Center for Longevity of the Brain more than 24 million people are living with this disease, so the stakes are high. The good news is that there are easy and fun ways to keep your brain sharp. Some simple lifestyle adjustments and engaging activities can make a world of difference! Eating a healthy and balanced diet is always important, but for brain health, it is essential. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is an excellent place to start. Eating a healthy diet can also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions that contribute to cognitive decline. Martha Clare Morris, ScD, an associate professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, has found that a diet which incorporates one meal a week high in omega-3 fatty acids can slow cognitive decline by 10% each year. Omega 3- fatty acids are unsaturated fats also called “good fats.” Our 20 FALL 2013 bodies need this type of fat in order to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some of the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish, nuts and flax seed. Fish oil supplements are easily available if you find it difficult to incorporate these foods into your diet on a regular basis. In addition to diet, physical exercise is important for a healthy body and it, too, is key to keeping one’s brain sharp. Two studies presented at the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris added to the growing research suggesting that exercise can protect one’s brain against mental decline. Exercising four to five times a week for at least 30 minutes is preferable. Simply going for a brisk walk or even exercising from a seated position will yield measurable benefits. Remember that is important to check with your doctor before starting any new physical exercise program. Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising the rest of your body. Brain exercise includes such activities as reading a new book, engaging in a favorite hobby, reading aloud, doing simple arithmetic or learning a new skill. Hosting a game night, doing a crossword puzzle, playing card games, learning to dance