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Brain Health and Wellness

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By Stacy Schroder, M.Ed., CEAS, director of wellness and prevention at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown

According to the Functional Aging Institute, the top three concerns among older adults are losing money, losing independence and losing brain function. Throughout your life, your brain’s job is to help you make sense of the world and help oversee your daily operations.

Brain health refers to the ability to remember, learn, play, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind. It’s being able to draw on the strengths of your brain—information management, logic, judgment, perspective and wisdom. Brain health is all about making the most of your brain and helping reduce some risks to it as you age.

You can decrease your risk of dementia by 35 percent by doing the following:

  • Control and manage hypertension
  • Correct your hearing loss
  • Participate in cognitive activities
  • Control or prevent diabetes
  • Eat well
  • Become physically active (reducing obesity)
  • Stop smoking
  • Increase your socialization

Activities

Also consider maximizing stimulation of your neural pathways or the “information highways” along which messages travel between the brain and body parts. The five primary functions of the brain are strategic planning, memory and recall, analytical thinking, creativity and imagination and kinesthetic learning. These five primary functions are all used at “play.” Play games that involve physical and mental aspects including bocce, pickle ball, golf, etc. Go back to your childhood days and play Red Rover, Tag and Hide-and-Seek with your grandkids. You’re never too old for games!

The “sweet spot” is combining physical activity with cognitive activity. Activities like meditation, singing, Tai Chi, yoga, strength exercises and dance are a great way to benefit cognition, emotions, brain and blood flow. They also reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body and increase the healthy hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.

Food Choices

The Mediterranean diet is beneficial to brain health:

  • Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
  • Replace butter with healthy fats (such as olive oil)
  • Use herbs and spices to flavor foods
  • Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoy meals with family and friends
  • Drink red wine with meals – or just eat the grapes!

The Baird Wellness Center is starting a Brain Fitness Club. Wellness specialists will be introducing new ways to maximize your cognition to decrease your risk of dementia – all while having fun! Call the Baird Wellness Center at  717-361-5699 ext. 4, for more information.

By Stacy Schroder, M.Ed., CEAS, director of wellness and prevention at the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown