Written By Michelle Abt
"Maintaining brain health is important at any age, but it is especially
critical for older adults who may experience mental and physical changes
as a result of aging,” says Dr. Susan Sun, a neurologist with Torrance
Memorial Physician Network.
Brain health refers to how well a person’s brain functions across
several areas, including cognitive health, motor function and emotional
function. Brain health can be affected by a number of factors such as
age-related changes, diseases such as Alzheimer’s, or an injury
such as a stroke. Some of these factors cannot be avoided, however there
are numerous health and lifestyle choices that can have a beneficial impact
on your brain health as you get older.
Stay Active and Maintain a Healthy Diet
Brain health is supported by following the same dietary and lifestyle guidelines
as those recommended for heart health — regular weekly exercise
including 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, and a diet
including vegetables, fruits, plant proteins, whole grains and fish, while
limiting red meat, refined grains and sweets. Examples of this type of
diet are the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.
Don’t Let Sleep Apnea Go Untreated
Sleep apnea is a common condition among older adults. It is caused by the
collapse of airways during sleep which makes it difficult to breath and
deprives the brain of oxygen. Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive
snoring and daytime sleepiness, even after a full night’s sleep.
Untreated sleep apnea can put you at a significantly increased risk of
stroke and has been shown to harm brain tissue. The good news is it can
be treated. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, see a sleep medicine
professional for help.
Stay Engaged to Maintain Cognitive and Emotional Health
Research on the connection between intellectual engagement and brain health
is not yet conclusive, but people who participate in activities they find
meaningful report feeling healthier and happier. Many activities can keep
your mind active including reading, playing games, learning a new skill,
volunteering or working. These activities can also help keep you socially-engaged,
which helps combat loneliness and depression.
Plan Ahead to Prevent Falls
Every year, 1 in 4 Americans over 65 experiences a fall. You can prevent
a fall by exercising to improve balance, strength and flexibility; reviewing
your medications to make sure they don’t cause dizziness or weakness;
getting your vision and hearing checked; and keeping your home safe by
removing hazards, improving the lighting and installing grab bars.
Manage Your Caregiver Stress
Caring for a loved one with an illness or disability can be physically,
mentally and emotionally stressful. Avoid caregiver burnout by practicing
self-care: exercising (a simple walk can make a difference), gardening,
meditating, reading or even just having coffee with a friend. Identify
some stress reducers that work for you and make time to enjoy them. Both
you and your loved one will benefit.
Susan Sun, MD is a neurologist at Torrance Memorial Physician Network Neurology in Torrance
at 23560 Crenshaw Blvd., Ste. 101. She can be reached at (310) 517-7021.