Some folks might be surprised to unwrap three different jigsaw puzzles on their birthday. Not Margery. With a decades-long nursing career to her credit, this retired 78-year-old has always known that brain work supports good health and cognitive wellness.
“I guess everyone in my family had the same idea,” Margery laughs. “Granted, puzzles have been a nice way to pass the time during COVID-19. But yes, I know what they’re saying. Do a puzzle, mum. Keep your brain active.”
She’s not wrong. While there’s no definitive way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, research shows the same factors that support good health generally help reduce the risk of memory loss and the conditions that create it. Whether that means enjoying a puzzle on a sunny afternoon, diving into a rousing round of scrabble with the neighbours, or simply doing a daily crossword: activities that keep your brain active go a long way toward preserving cognitive function. That’s particularly good news for seniors in Ontario, where the prevalence of dementia more than doubles every five years after age 65.
Wondering what other tactics can dial down the risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia while dialling up your wellbeing? At Home Care Assistance Toronto, we suggest embracing these four steps to foster a happy, healthy body and mind:
- Keep vascular risks under control. Chronic issues (high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, etc.) should be rigorously managed for a host of different reasons. This includes preserving your cognitive function. Conditions that interrupt blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, or damage the brain’s blood vessels, can cause vascular dementia. As researchers dig into the connections between vascular risk factors and overall cognitive function, experts underline the importance of staying on top of any heart and lung issues as they arise.
- Aim to get enough exercise. Moving our bodies is a great thing at any age. And research shows it can be just as important to our brain as any other aspect of our health. Evidence has shown that 30 minutes of exercise, three or four times a week, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also been shown to slow down the disease’s progression for people who are experiencing symptoms. New studies show that even brisk walking can build better brain health among older populations living with memory impairment. Of course, exercise should always be tailored to a senior’s specific abilities, and be based on a doctor’s recommendations.
- Eat the rainbow at every meal. Poor diets and poor health outcomes often go hand-in-hand. On the flipside, embracing a diet that’s rich in foods known to support brain health can help bolster your resilience to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. While many researchers have highlighted the benefits of Mediterranean and MIND diets (built around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and legumes), many also point to the upside of choosing vibrant, colourful foods. So, go ahead. Add something bright and beautiful to your plate this spring.
- Reconnect with friends and family. Social connections have long been cited as a top issue for seniors in Ontario, and from coast to coast. Lacking a strong connection to the community, seniors can fall victim to loneliness and depression, which increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That said, more social contact could reduce that risk. As the pandemic ultimately recedes, overcoming isolation will be paramount for Ontario seniors. Now that spring has sprung in most parts of the province, take advantage of better weather and warmer temperatures to connect with your community. Something as simple as coffee on the porch or a visit with the neighbours can go a long way toward feeling connected and boost your brain health at the very same time.
What’s the net-net?
Healthy bodies and healthy minds are most certainly connected. Seniors can invest in both by managing risks, exercise, diet and connectedness. Doing so can benefit brain health—and in many cases, bring a little bit of fun to the everyday routine.