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Enhancing Brain Health: Celebrate World Brain Health and Prevention Day on July 22

Enhancing Brain Health: Celebrate World Brain Health and Prevention Day on July 22

Enhancing Brain Health: Celebrate World Brain Health and Prevention Day on July 22

How do you keep your brain healthy?

The answer is simple, really. It’s the same way you keep the rest of your body healthy.

It’s said that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Exercise, good nutrition, and sleep top the list. Add in some socializing, stress reduction and general common sense, and you’re well on your way to maintaining good brain health for seniors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and being physically active are the top three ways to head off dementia and related illnesses. Check out the rest of the list at Maintaining Your Brain Health (cdc.gov).

Did you know that where you live matters, too? The socialization, support, and safety considerations offered in a senior living community can make a big difference in navigating the aging process and all its physical, mental, and emotional health challenges.

At Meadowood, we’re well aware that it’s important to start protecting  and exercising your brain as early as possible. Our physical fitness classes, Healthy Brain class, Spanish class, wellness talks, and many opportunities to socialize and play among peers help to keep minds sharp. Combining brain games with exercise is particularly effective.

A recent study of more than 2,700 people over 65 compared the brain function of people with mild cognitive impairment who regularly pursued two or more physical and mental activities with those who practiced only one. Activity examples included exercise, mind-body practices like tai chi, and cognitive along with social outings. 

Researchers found that in most trials, “older adults who did multiple endeavors scored higher on tests that measured cognitive skills like processing speed, memory, executive function (planning and attention), and verbal fluency (retrieving details from memory).” (Doing multiple types of activities improves cognitive health – Harvard Health)

Learning new things is a big one, too. Did you know line dancing is an amazing activity to promote brain health for seniors? How about learning a new language or playing an instrument? Puzzles and games keep your gray matter pliable, too, as do mindfulness and meditation.

A recent Brain Games event at Meadowood — one of many community events — saw residents solving riddles, working Rubik’s cubes, playing memory games, and answering trivia questions. The current events group, book club, Saturday salons, and lectures provide opportunities to learn, debate, and dig deep on a multitude of topics. Working your memory, math, and language skills is crucial. Meadowood offers numerous brain health strategies for older adults.

Still, worries of dementia and Alzheimer’s often top the list of concerns as we age. And while a certain amount of memory loss is normal after age 65, about 1 in 10 people will develmop dementia (and half of those will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s), with the probability rising with age. Of people in their 90s, about 35% live with dementia, according to a study published in late 2022 by JAMA Neurology.

So, what happens if you or your loved one must face that reality?

“Dementia is a diagnosis. It doesn’t define a person,” says Stephanie Messler, Senior Director of Personal Care. 

Stephanie runs the award-winning McLean Memory Center on the Meadowood campus and says providing opportunities for those living with dementia is key. “We offer a quality-of-life program that includes socialization, healthy options for dining, movement and strength-training classes, stress-reduction sessions, and cognition-challenging activities to help maintain their brain health for seniors.”

Notice we use the term, “living with dementia” here at Meadowood. That’s because we understand that individuals with cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s are full of life. 

“It’s very easy for an outsider to see someone with a dementia diagnosis and assume that they are not as capable as they actually are,” says Memory Care Support Coordinator Jessica Costanzi. “Through the use of recreational therapy, we can highlight an individual’s strengths and abilities and show a very strong and capable side to them. Recreational interventions also provide staff with the opportunity to bond with individuals in a special way and help foster connections between residents and their loved ones.”

Whether your brain health efforts are geared toward prevention and improvement, or whether you’re navigating care for mild cognitive impairment or dementia, there is activity and intervention for all points on the senior brain health continuum, so don’t neglect that gray matter!