Thursday, June 27, 2013

Healthy Aging and Brain Health

Healthy aging is not just about taking care of our physical bodies as we get older. Healthy aging can be starting to develop lifestyle changes when we are young that will insure we reach old age with our bodies, minds and spirits being at their optimally healthy level. We all know that as we age our bodies can't do the same things as when we were younger. We have all also experienced the memory lapses and changes related to cognitive functioning. Just as there are natural solutions to keep our bodies supported through healthy aging, there are also natural solutions that can help with brain health as we age.

We start noticing many of our physical and mental limitations in midlife, but studies have shown that many of the memory problems we start experiencing in midlife are due more to distraction and interrupted attention. This is due to changes in the frontal lobe that start in midlife. This is also the time of life when we start experiencing the mind only being able to handle so much information before it becomes overwhelmed and blocks out anything new trying to come in, trouble remembering things that have to be done at specific times, and a decline in being able to retrieve information as fast as we once could. In fact there is a study that shows elderly people are more able to remember to take medications on time than middle aged people because middle aged people are more likely to get distracted by other life factors. Cognitive dysfunctions don't just happen all of a sudden when we reach old age, so the time to start improving brain health is as early as possible.

Natural Solutions for Healthy Aging and Brain Health
It's hard when you start realizing your mind and body can't perform they way they once could. There are natural solutions you can use to support brain health and cognitive functioning and as aids to coping with memory problems. You can be creative when coming up with things that will spark the memory. Here are some basics that can work.

-Challenge your brain by learning new things, use the internet to search for information on things you've always wanted to learn about, do mental puzzles and games. An active brain continues to develop. Studies at UCLA have shown that internet searching uses neural circuitry that is different from that used in reading.

-Write notes to yourself not just at home or your desk, but for in the car when doing errands or anytime. Don't tell yourself you'll write the note later; get in the habit of writing things down as soon as you think of them.

-Use index cards with key phrases as reminders during meetings or social functions.

-Find time to relax as stress can be counterproductive to brain health. Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are all good for stress management. Meditation has also been shown to create growth in the cortex area of the brain which is responsible for memory.

-Use a calendar, write specific information about appointments in it, always put appointments in immediately and don't agree to anything without being able to schedule it in your calendar.

-Use alarms as reminders.

- Aerobic exercise can keep the mind sharp and has also been shown to increase brain tissue.

-Some new studies are starting to indicate that taking probiotics to support gut health can have an effect on brain health. These studies indicate there may be a connection between the health of the friendly bacteria in the gut and a reduction of brain activity associated with stress, anxiety and depression.

-Assign a particular place for needed items such as keys, wallet, and glasses and ALWAYS put them there. Avoid going on auto pilot when dealing with items and consciously put them in their assigned place.

-A new study shows cocoa drinks with antioxidant flavanols may help boost brain health in older people.

-Create a list of stalling tactics or phrases you can use in situations to give you time to think of the word you want to say or to retrieve information not coming to mind immediately.

- Another supplement to the diet that can be supportive of brain health is a blue green algae supplement that also supports an active lifestyle. Besides the blue green algae that is a good source of whole food nutrition, it has the added ingredients of bee pollen, vitamin A, enzymes, antioxidants, gluten-free wheatgrass juice, Hawaiin noni, eleuthero, ginkgo, and turmeric. Bee pollen is reported to have a high amino acid content useful for stimulating memory and concentration. Wheatgrass juice has been found to provide nutrients that support brain health and clearer thinking. Gingko has been used for a long time to promote increased memory and mental concentration by increasing circulation and providing increased oxygenation of brain cells. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been the basis of much research and found to have benefit for enhancing memory, as an anti-inflammatory, for enhancing nerve growth in areas of the brain and as an antidepressant. It is also being studied and used in relation to treating Alzheimer's.

Start a Brain Health Program Early
New studies show that healthy aging in the brain could be tied to blood pressure levels. In midlife those with higher blood pressure levels are found to have cognitive and memory problems as they get older. The bad news is that elevated blood pressure levels occur in around 50 million Americans and less than 60% of them know that they do and get treatment. ( The good news is that this information indicates that using natural solutions for balancing blood pressure is also a natural solution for brain health. The first step is knowing what your blood pressure is. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg. If you find you have blood pressure higher than normal, your brain health and physical health could benefit from treatment to lower the blood pressure. Natural solutions could include reducing saturated fat and sugar from the diet, taking supplements with coenzyme Q10, garlic, hawthorn and folic acid.

Research also shows that those who stay active and socially connected are emotionally and mentally healthy which has an effect on physical health too. Being active physically produces body chemicals that promote positive emotions whereas inactivity can lead to depression, anxiety and stress. Sure there will be activities our bodies just won't still do as we get older, but finding alternative activities to replace them are important. If you can no longer run, then walk.

Don't wait to start practicing some of the healthy aging tips mentioned here to support brain health. Whatever age you are, now is the time to start working towards being a mentally sharp elder.

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