Every human being ages, it’s nature’s course. It’s impossible to stop the tick-tock of the aging clock! However, it is possible to manage our health so that we age as well as possible.
The National Institutes on Aging (NIH) says that brain health is tied directly to physical health. While some exercise and activities may emphasize the body over the brain and vice versa, when it comes to health they really are one in the same. Your brain and your body take care of one another. If you are caring for an aging loved one, here are the top five healthy things that you can do to keep your loved one’s mind and body as healthy as possible.
1. Take care of physical health. Following these tips will ensure that preventive care is received and any disease or illness is diagnosed as early as possible. They will also help to avoid injury.
- Recommended health screenings change as we age. Make sure your loved one gets the regular health screenings his or her doctor recommends.
- Manage chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and high cholesterol.
- Know the side effects of medications that your loved one takes and check to see if they may affect memory, sleep, and brain function.
- “Fall-proof” the house to reduce the risk of physical and brain injuries.
- Limit the use of alcohol (some medicines can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol).
- Quit smoking and the use of any tobacco products.
- Encourage good sleep, generally 7-8 hours each night.
2. Eat healthy foods. The palate changes as we age and foods may become more or less appetizing. Pay close attention to the foods your loved one gravitates toward. If they are healthy, serve more. If they are unhealthy and filled with salt and sugar, try to find healthy alternatives. Eating healthy foods can reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes and can keep the brain healthy.
- Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry and low–fat or non–fat dairy products.
- Limit solid fats, sugar, and salt.
- Drink enough water and other fluids, up to 8 glasses a day.
3. Be physically active. Any activity is great. Walking may be the best form of exercise for your loved one. It’s free and it can be done right outside their door at whatever pace he or she can handle. Walking can help to:
- Improve your strength.
- Increase energy.
- Improve balance and core strength that helps to prevent falls.
- Prevent or delay heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.
- Perk up your mood and reduce depression.
- Any activity counts including housework, gardening, and shopping.
4. Keep the mind active. The brain is a muscle and it wants to work. Encourage your loved one to participate in intellectually stimulating activities every day. It can help to keep their cognition levels up, battle depression and give them a sense of overall happiness. Brain exercises can include:
- Volunteering and hobbies.
- Learning new skills like knitting, quilting or photography.
- Doing math problems.
- Reading books and magazines.
- Playing games.
- Monitoring college classes – it’s free!
The NIH advises you to be wary of claims that certain computer games can improve memory. Those claims have yet to be proven.
5. Stay connected: Human beings are social “animals”. We are not solitary beings. That is why staying connected with friends and family is so important and the benefits numerous. Staying connected can:
- Bring joy.
- Increase happiness.
- Fight depression, loneliness, anxiety and isolation.
- Reduce stress.
- Improve a sense of well-being.
- Increase interests in activities and hobbies.
Have you found unique ways to encourage your loved one to participate in these healthy aging tips? If so, please share them. We would love to hear from you.