“Promoting healthy aging helps ensure older adults remain a vibrant, integral community members for many years to come,” said Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., AFA’s president & CEO. “Lifestyle choices such as eating a nutritious diet, getting proper sleep, and regularly exercising your body and brain, are all steps individuals can take to promote brain health and wellness and potentially reduce their risk of developing a dementia-related illness.”
AFA offers the following 10 steps for healthy aging:
- Eat well – Adopt a low-fat diet high on fruits and veggies, such as strawberries, blueberries, and broccoli. Take daily vitamins. Limit intake of red meats, fried and processed foods, salt, and sugar. Usually, foods that are “heart healthy” are also “brain healthy.”
- Stay active – Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and can also help improve mood and overall wellbeing. Brisk walking benefits brain health, while aerobics can boost your heart rate, and weight training builds strength and flexibility.
- Learn new things – Challenge your brain by starting a new hobby such as playing tennis, learning a foreign language, trying a cooking class, or something you haven’t done before. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand stimulates the brain by forcing it to think outside of its normal routine.
- Get enough sleep – Getting consistent sleep every night is key; at least seven to nine hours. Having a good sleep environment is also helpful. Insomnia or sleep apnea can have serious physical effects and negatively affect memory and thinking.
- Know about your medications – Medication can affect everyone differently, especially as you get older. When getting a new medication or something you haven’t taken in a while whether it’s over the counter or prescription, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Ask if it will affect your nervous system and brain.
- Stop smoking and limit alcohol – Smoking can increase the risk of other serious illnesses, while too much alcohol can impair judgment and cause accidents, including falls, broken bones, and car crashes.
- Stay connected – Social interaction and maintaining an active social life are important for brain health, cognitive stimulation, and mood. Invite friends and family over for a meal, board games, or just to visit. Engaging in your community and participating in group activities are also beneficial.
- Know your blood pressure – Blood pressure can impact your cognitive functioning. Visit your physician regularly to check your blood pressure and make sure it’s in the normal range.
- See your doctor – Maintain checkups. Health screenings are key to managing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, all of which can impact brain health. Talk with your physician about any concerns or questions you have about your health.
- Get a memory screening – Brains need regular checkups, just like other parts of the body. Memory screenings are quick, noninvasive exams for the brain. The AFA offers free virtual memory screenings every weekday. Go to www.alzfdn.org or call AFA at 866-232-8484 to learn more about getting one.