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Tips for a Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

There is growing evidence that a healthy lifestyle can delay, slow or even prevent cognitive decline. Learn how to lead a brain-healthy lifestyle by clicking on the subjects below. To download The Women's Alzheimer's Movement's full guide of "Tips for a Brain-Healthy Life," enter your email below!

Get moving.

Studies show you’ll improve blood flow to the brain, release hormones that make you feel good, and stimulate growth factor to help create new neurons and synapses in your brain. (Bonus for women: exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause and combat osteoporosis.)

Be consistent.

The benefits of exercise are cumulative, so it’s important to set a realistic, consistent schedule. Work up to doing cardio three times a week and weight/resistance training at least once a week. You should also enjoy the occasional challenge of a yoga or tai chi class to keep you limber and balanced!

Mix it up.

Research shows it’s the combination of aerobic exercise and weight/resistance training that will benefit you the most. Aerobic exercise seems to enhance overall brain function. Resistance training seems to improve memory and cognitive function.

Move anywhere and everywhere.

Movement and exercise do not have to be confined to the gym. Be creative about where else you can increase your daily movement. Walk, don’t drive to do an errand. Take the stairs and ditch the elevator. Dance while doing dishes. Learn to move more in your nonexercise time.

Protect your head.

Repeated knocks can injure your brain in ways that may not manifest themselves for years. So wear a helmet when you bike or play contact sports.

What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.

Research shows that it improves every aspect of your health to switch out old-fashioned meat and potatoes for the healthier Mediterranean and MIND diets. That means less red meat and bad fats-and loads more fruits and vegetables, avocados, fish, legumes, beans, whole grains and healthy fats, like olive oil, seeds and nuts.

Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.

Red, blue, purple, yellow, green and orange are more than beautiful colors. They contain the vitamins and anti-oxidants necessary to keep your brain humming, your vision and immune system healthy, and lower your risk for all sorts of medical maladies, from strokes to cancer.

Keep it simple.

Ditch the processed foods that increase beta amyloids in the brain. That means saying no to processed meats, cheeses, soft drinks, snacks, breakfast cereals and most other foods that contain a laundry list of preservatives and chemicals. Rule of thumb: the fewer the ingredients, the better for your body.

Lose the refined sugar.

It creates insulin resistance, a leading driver of type II diabetes, which can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s.

It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat it.

Research shows that intermittent daily fasting seems to reboot the metabolism by burning fat as its primary fuel. So give your brain a break by fasting 12 to 14 hours between dinner and breakfast. Studies show it will improve insulin sensitivity, a key to brain health.

Replace salt with herbs and spices.

Not only will you control your blood pressure, which is good for your brain, but many spices have anti-inflammatory effects. Be generous with the cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, oregano, rosemary and cilantro.

Hydrate.

Your brain needs water. Drink eight 8oz glasses of water each day.

Rest your busy mind.

Sleep is essential in the formation of memories and also in cleaning out amyloid deposits that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Your brain needs 7 to 9 hours a night, so don’t cheat yourself of sleep’s many therapeutic benefits.

Exercise for better sleep.

If you exercise during the day, it will help clean out your brain at night. Exercise loosens up amyloid deposits, which sleep disposes of at night.

Recharge and reboot.

Recharge your tech devices outside the bedroom while you reboot your brain at night. Your devices are a distraction from sleep, and the blue light they emit inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone necessary to falling asleep.

If you aren’t rested, get tested.

If you suffer from chronic insomnia, get tested for sleep apnea. Evidence shows it can lead to a quicker decline in cognitive function and perhaps an earlier Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Stay cool.

Your body needs to cool down in order to sleep, so help it by turning down the thermostat to somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees.

Honor your sleep sanctuary.

Make your bed every day. It’s a task completed and a great way to start the day. And it will feel lovely when you get back into it at night.

Lights out.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, try not to turn on the light. It will activate the brain by suppressing melatonin. Instead try practicing mindful breathing to lull yourself back to sleep.

Lose the pills.

Sleep-inducing medications are not your friends in the long run.

Challenge your brain.

Research indicates that mental activity offers benefits to brain health. Learn something new to create new neural connections. Study an unfamiliar language or take up an instrument.

Play.

Train your brain. Research shows challenging your brain can improve your cognitive skills and strengthen existing neural pathways. So have fun with online apps, crossword puzzles and playing games with friends.

Change it up.

Take an alternate route to work. Open doors with your non-dominant hand. Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. Shifting habits helps create new pathways in the brain.

Use it or lose it.

It’s possible to train your memory. Next time you are headed to the grocery store, use your memory to put together your shopping list. You’ll find that with just a little effort, you can fortify your skills to remember.

Play, sing, and listen to music.

It touches our brains, our bodies, our hearts and our souls. It evokes precious memories and can elicit deep emotion. It can soothe and reduce stress…or energize and invigorate. Music is a proven and powerful therapeutic tool.

Take a break from multi-tasking.

By focusing on too many things at once, you are compromising your ability to store information over short periods of time. Try performing tasks sequentially for optimal brain performance, productivity and accuracy. Your brain will thank you for the chance to reset in a world filled with distraction.

Put out the cigarettes!

Smoking is bad for your heart and blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow to your brain. Smoking leads not just to cancer, but is considered a risk factor for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Practice mindful meditation.

Meditation is both a stress management and brain-boosting tool. Research shows even a few minutes a day lowers stress, inflammation and depression—and improves memory, mood and even your genes!

Reduce stress and anxiety.

Using breath to meditate is the easiest, cheapest and most portable tool we have to control stress and anxiety each day. Oxygenating your blood while evenly matching the length of your inhale to that of your exhale can relax you quickly.

Get a cognitive baseline.

It’s important to identify early in life whether your cognitive health is declining. So talk to your doctor about getting a cognitive test as a regular part of your check-up.

Laugh a little

-or better yet, make someone else laugh. Studies have shown that humor can relieve stress, help stimulate your immune system and even reduce pain.

Stay positive.

Science tells us there is a strong link between “positivity” and health, and that those who have a positive attitude improve outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions— including heart and brain health issues. Then there’s the very real fact that a conscious decision to focus on the positive helps us recognize the joy, beauty and grace in our lives.

Take a silent walk.

You can observe all that is around you, giving you space to breathe fresh air. Research shows that spending time in nature lowers cortisol, a stress hormone, and is linked with longer life in women.

Love your friends and family.

Research shows that social isolation is dangerous to your health—and that people who stay connected and have regular social interaction with friends and family maintain brain vitality.

Never worry alone.

Sharing your concerns, depression and grief with others lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases oxytocin, a hormone that has a natural calming effect.

Engage with others.

Sign up for a course at a local college, have a coloring party, or volunteer in the community. It can be more beneficial to turn a solitary activity into something you do with a group.

Make a new friend.

Go out of your way to meet someone from a world or country you know nothing about. Being curious about new people, places and ideas will keep your brain engaged.

Remember your stories.

Write down your story and memories so you don’t forget them, but can share them with others. Memories are the connective tissue that make us and our relationships unique.

It’s okay to ask for help.

All caregivers need breaks from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving, which can lead to dangerous levels of stress. Have a group of people on call for when you need a break.

Patience is key.

Remember that caregiving isn’t easy on you or your loved one, but that you are both doing the best you can. Not everything will go as planned, but that’s okay.

Maintain a positive attitude.

A conscious decision to focus on the positive helps us recognize the beauty and grace in our lives and move forward through even the most trying times. Don’t focus on the loss, but on everything your loved one still has to give.

Create consistent routines.

Simple tasks performed regularly can help create a reliable structure to the day that can be comforting to people with Alzheimer’s and may also provide a rewarding sense of accomplishment.

Music works miracles.

Try getting your loved one to take a bath or brush their teeth by chanting, singing or playing music. Music is deeply embedded in our emotional DNA and can often reach a loved one when language and reasoning can’t.

Prepare and plan.

The moment you get an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, take the necessary steps to put financial and legal plans in place. This allows the person with dementia to express wishes for future care and decisions, and allows time to work through the complex issues involved with long term care.

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