Pella Chronicle

May 13, 2011

Ouder en Wijzer (Older & Wiser)

Kathi Gross
Vriendschap Village Activity Director

Pella — Use it or lose it!  Have you ever heard this phrase?  My guess is that it would be in the context of exercise and physical fitness.  Did you know that “use it or lose it” applies to your mental health as well?  Your brain needs just as much exercise as your body.  In fact, as we age, it’s even more important to give your brain a workout everyday to keep your mind sharp.  I’d like to share four ways you can maintain a healthy brain.

Physical Exercise - Every little bit helps in this area.  Whether you just park a little further from the grocery store entrance or “take laps” up and down your hallway, you are giving your brain a workout too.  According to Helpguide.org, regular exercise gets more oxygen to your brain, reduces the risk for various diseases that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and it may even enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells.

Good Nutrition  - Common sense definitely applies here.  Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.  Believe it or not, healthy fats are a key ingredient to keeping our brains healthy.   Much of our brain’s cell structure is made up of these fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids.  Examples of healthy fat foods would be cold-water fish, such as salmon and albacore tuna.  Other sources include flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, wheatgerm, and eggs.

Social Connections - People who don’t have social contact with family and friends are at higher risk for memory problems than people who have strong social ties. Social interaction helps the brain function in several ways: it often involves activity that challenges the mind, and it helps ward off stress and depression.  One of the primary reasons many people consider moving to a retirement community like Vriendschap Village is because of the social activities available.  

Mental Stimulation  - There are many ways to stimulate your brain.  Here are just a few suggestions:   

-Play games that involve strategy, like chess or bridge, and word games like Scrabble.   Combine the social with the mental and have your grandkids over once a week for a Game Night.  Make popcorn or cookies and let them help you exercise your brain!

-Work crossword and other word puzzles, or number puzzles such as Sudoku.

-Read newspapers, magazines and books that challenge you.

-Get in the habit of learning new things: games, recipes, driving routes.   Did you know that just taking a different way to the grocery store can build neural pathways?

-Take a course in an unfamiliar subject.

-Take on a project that involves design and planning, like a quilt or a new garden.

-Work a jigsaw puzzle.  Did you know that jigsaw puzzles, in particular, develop your abilities to reason, analyze, sequence, and deduce logical thought processes and problem solving skills? These types of puzzles also improve hand-eye coordination and develop a good working sense of spatial arrangements.

So there you have it!  Following these simple yet challenging steps will keep you from “losing it” by not “using it”!  Don’t wait to start exercising your brain – start today!



Sources and helpful websites for memory loss information: Ryan Brancato, SeniorList.com; Helpguide.org; Douglas Jobes, Memory-improvement-tips.com