Roy attended a breakout session called Boost Your Marvelous Brain at the recent Alberta Seniors Housing Association conference. He brought home a handout and brochure from the Calgary Alzheimer Society. I love learning about brain function because I’ve grown very fond (and protective) of my own mind.
That’s also why I’ve never understood those who willfully do things that can hurt that precious organ. Or hasten the decline that naturally comes with advancing age. Or fail to take protective proactive measures to optimize its function.
Think about those old ads showing a brain on drugs or scrambled after an accident. When I was teenager an old wives? tale insisted that 10,000 brain cells were lost each time a person got drunk. I have no idea if that was true then or now but I do know I wasn’t taking any chances. I didn’t think I could spare any.
There are five factors within our control as we attempt to keep our brains healthy as long as possible. They don’t offer total protection against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
1. Challenge your mind through games like Sudoku, crosswords, puzzles, and card games. Learn a new language, take a course, play a musical instrument. Use your non-dominant hand to perform tasks.
2. Manage the stress levels in your life by getting sufficient sleep and nurturing your health and wellbeing with personal time devoted to relaxation. Spend time with friends, hobbies, entertainment. don’t fight those things you can’t change, ask for and accept help, and laugh.
3. Take steps to socialize whether It’s with family, friends or strangers. Join a group, club or organization. Be both the host and the guest. Initiate conversations. I had two fun and funny talks with the Jamaican maid who cleaned our hotel room. She laughed easily and often and I was caught up in her story. She looked like a girl yet was fifty-eight years old. Good genes or good attitude? She made my day.
4. Know your (cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, weight) numbers and get them into the healthy range. Eat a well-balanced, portion-controlled diet; limit alcohol consumption and see a doctor when necessary.
5. Incorporate regular, do-able, reasonable activity into your life. Protect yourself against head injury and concussion. Wear a seatbelt when driving. Prevent tripping hazards, be vigilant with medications, install aids and improve balance and strength to prevent falls.
Memory loss, disorientation, errors in judgment and a changed personality are some early indicators of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulty communicating or doing abstract thinking, being moody, misplacing items and lacking initiative are others.
So our assignment is clear: after a good night’s sleep take a daily walk with a friend while wearing a helmet, munching on celery and doing a Sudoku before volunteering later with a service club. That should stave off dementia for another day, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.