- Get enough rest. As we age we need as much rest as when we were younger. Some of us have more disruptions in our sleep as we get older. Good rest helps improve memory recall.
- Take good care of your whole body--everything is connected. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and poor dental hygiene can contribute to decreased brain functioning and dementia. Get regular physicals and take care of health issues.
- Monitor your medications. Some memory loss, some forms of dementia, and other problems of the brain can be traced back to harmful drug combinations or inappropriate drug use.
- Stay present. Learning mindfulness skills can help with focus and memory. Mindfulness also helps manage stress, which can negatively impact memory.
- Learn new things. Learning forces the brain to make new neural connections and promotes flexible thinking. Ideas include learning new computer programs; a new language; puzzles like Sudoku or crossword; or new games like cards or chess.
- Engage the right and left sides of the brain. As we age, we naturally use both sides more often to help with memory and for integration of knowledge. Express yourself creatively through writing, painting, or music. Take classes; join a book club; attend lectures, plays, and concerts; visit museums; or volunteer for a cause you care about. Engage with others and talk about what you learn.
- Laugh daily. Yes, it's true. Experts recommend at least 15 minutes a day. Research shows that laughter increases blood flow which, in turn, is good for the brain.
- Look on the bright side. A positive outlook contributes to a healthy mind and body. Focus on the good in the world and the activities and people that make you happy.
- Give and receive love. Touching, hugging, holding one another or a pet is good for the immune system, blood pressure, and the brain. We are social beings and touch is an important part of feeling connected.
- Stay connected spiritually. If nurturing your spiritual side has had meaning for you, keep up that aspect of your life. This connection can help prevent depression and may guard against dementia.
A recent survey reveals that a majority of baby boomers are woefully unprepared or in denial about health changes that are inevitable during retirement years.1 Baby boomers, by their sheer numbers, have the unprecedented opportunity to positively impact society's view on aging and dispel stereotypes. No matter what generation you were born in, it's time to wake up and be conscious of our aging process. We have access to the wisdom--let's contribute to a new, positive vision of what is means to age in America.
1 Poll: Retirement and Health. NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health. September 2011.
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