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Editorial: Feed and exercise your brain

Editorial: Feed and exercise your brain

Have the winter doldrums slowed down your desire to eat well and stay physically and mentally active?

With spring comes Brain Awareness Week (March 16 – 22), the perfect time for Sunshine Coast residents to get back on track. It’s important to make the move because healthy lifestyle choices lead to a healthy brain and can lower your risk of dementia.

“The prevalence of dementia is on the rise and while researchers are working toward finding a cure and effective treatments, we can take steps to protect our brain health,” says Maria Howard, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of BC. “There is strong and growing evidence that shows that key lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, a heart-healthy diet, socialization and lifelong learning not only help lower the risk of dementia but also maintain or improve brain function as we age.”

Dementia develops when the risk factors for the disease combine and reach a level that overwhelms the brain’s ability to maintain and repair itself. While there is no guarantee, reducing as many of the risk factors as you can will keep your brain as healthy and strong as possible as you age.  

In fact, according to recent research, combining four or five healthy lifestyle factors can reduce the risk of dementia by 60 per cent compared to adopting none or only one factor.

Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

• Challenge yourself. Learn a new hobby or language.  Any kind of mental stimulation will fire up your neurons.

• Be socially active. Volunteer in your community or join a book club.  

• Eat well. Create healthy meals that include a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need for a balanced diet.  Choosing healthy foods can improve your general health, help maintain brain function and slow memory decline over the long term.

• Be physically active. Start with a 10-minute walk around the block a few times a week.  Regular exercise pumps blood to the brain, which nourishes the cells.

• Reduce your stress. Try five minutes of daily meditation to help lower your stress level.  Constant stress can cause vascular changes and chemical imbalances that are damaging to the brain and other cells in your body. 

• Protect your head. Wear an approved helmet when playing sports. Preventing falls is also critical, as this is one of the major causes of head injuries in older adults.   

• Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, don’t smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation to help lower your risk factors. 

For more tips and information about brain health, visit alzbc.org/brain-health

Submitted by Alzheimer Society of BC

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