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Monday, July 21, 2014

10 ways to keep your brain healthy


McClatchy-Tribune

Getting healthy is a top New Year’s resolution. But keeping your brain healthy as you age also should be a top priority.

Wes Ashford, an Alzheimer’s Disease expert and creator of the consumer memory screening test MemTrax, offers these 10 tips to on keeping your brain healthy:

1. Exercise your mind: Education is associated with decreased Alzheimer’s risk. So try taking a class, learning a new language or working math or word puzzles to keep your mind stimulated. There also are personalized brain-train programs, like those at HAPPYneuron (www.HAPPYneuron.com).

2. Get physical: Physical exercise is an important part of keeping your mind healthy. Adopt a regular exercise program, incorporating both aerobics and strength training — and don’t forget to stretch.

3. Be social: Making and keeping friends has great benefits for your brain. Staying active with friends, getting involved in the community and just enjoying a good conversation are easy, ongoing ways to stimulate your brain.

4. Eat right: If your mom told you to eat your veggies and take your vitamins — she was right. Ashford recommends vitamin E, vitamin C and a multi-vitamin with folate and no iron. He also suggests you talk with your doctor about your B-12 level — it should be above 400 — and have your vitamin D level checked.

5. Watch your weight: Being in good shape physically helps you mentally, and exercising and eating right can help with both physical and mental health.

6. Protect your noggin: Trauma to the head has major effects on your brain, including your memory. Be smart about protecting your head — wear a seat belt in the car and a helmet during any activity in which you could fall. Try exercises that improve your balance as well, one of which is as simple as practicing standing on one foot.

7. See your doctor: A variety of other health factors can affect your cognitive health, so it’s important to see your doctor regularly. Consult your physician about any joint or muscle pains, and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if they are recommended. Keep your hormones stable; this includes regular monitoring of your thyroid.

8. Love your heart: Take your blood pressure regularly — the systolic pressure should always be less than 130, with diastolic blood pressure less than 85. Watch your cholesterol and, if they are recommended, use statins that cross into the brain. If approved by your doctor, take one enteric-coated baby aspirin each day.

9. Sleep tight: While physical activity is important, so is rest. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep, and try to keep stress levels under control. Yoga might help. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider trying 3 to 6 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime. If you snore, consult your clinician about sleep apnea.

10. Remember your memory: As you get older, monitoring your memory should be another regular to-do item. Have your memory screened regularly after age 60, or use an at-home memory-screening test. Consult a doctor immediately if you find yourself having difficulty with your memory.

Wes Ashford is the chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and clinical editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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