Recently I checked our birthday calendar and was reminded that it is my friend Tony’s birthday this month. While we rarely visit during the months between birthdays, the United States Post Office can confidently budget for at least 2 pieces of mail a year between Tony and I. I send him a card in March and he sends one my way in May. This year the card he will receive reads that “getting old sucks”, however aging gracefully is fun!
As I reflected on this sentiment, I realized that there is certainly a difference in each of our views on getting older, however medical conditions can really throw a wrench in the works for those who choose to “age gracefully”. I recall a seminar that the staff at Family Friend Estate Solutions attended recently on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease presented by the Alzheimer’s Association. We learned that aging well depends on your genes, environment and lifestyle. Good choices in your lifestyle may help keep your body and brain healthy. Dementia is caused by many different diseases and conditions, but it is not part of the normal aging process. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for about 60% of all dementia cases.
While there are therapies for Alzheimer’s that can treat symptoms, currently they cannot cure, prevent or even slow disease progression. Uh oh, doesn’t sound too good does it? On a brighter note, there are life strategies that can help you to age well particularly in four key areas:
- Physical Health and Exercise – Cardiovascular activity may reduce your risk of cognitive decline since regular and vigorous exercise leads to increased blood flow (25% of blood from every heartbeat goes to the brain). The brain depends on oxygen and adequate blood flow to work well. Finding an activity that gets your heart rate up may be just the ticket for you to keep the blood flowing. Start out small, move safely and ask a friend to join you, and you are on your way to improved health. *Remember to check with your doctor before you start any physical health and exercise plan.
- Diet and Nutrition – Nutritious food is fuel for the brain! Following some simple dietary guidelines can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and diabetes. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish are better dietary choices than processed food, deep-fried food or unhealthy fast food. Consult your doctor and other reputable sources about diet, dietary supplements and vitamins. Again, working with your doctor and diet specialists you can find the right plan for a new healthier you.
- Cognitive Activity – Cognitive activity encourages blood flow to the brain and keeping your mind active forms new connections among brain cells. Engaging in formal education can provide protection against developing dementia. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill set or have an interest in learning more about a subject, now’s the perfect time to do it! Check with your local library or community college for adult education opportunities. Another option is to check for online courses from Coursera or other similar outlets. The sky is the limit!
- Social Engagement – Social engagement is associated with living longer with fewer disabilities. Staying engaged in the community offers you an opportunity to maintain your social skills and being socially active supports brain activity and possibly delays the onset of dementia. Opportunities to stay “social” include visiting with family and friends, volunteering outside the home or joining a group or club. The key is staying involved in your community!
Get moving, eat right, keep your mind active and stay connected with others! By putting all four of the above pieces together you will help yourself achieve maximum benefits!
Learn More. For more details and to get more information for your particular situation, the Alzheimer’s Association has many tips and educational resources. Take a look at their website, alz.org or phone (800) 272-3900.