Aging smarter: Top tips for for better brain health
We all have misplaced our keys or forgotten someone’s name more times than we probably want to admit. We tend to chalk up these momentary memory lapses to our busy schedules or even stress. As it turns out, fleeting memory loss is a normal and natural part of aging. However, these episodes of forgetfulness have the potential to intensify with age, and perhaps be the sign of a more serious problem with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s.
The good news is there are some simple strategies you can implement that can help combat memory loss and keep your mind sharp, no matter your stage in life.
Tips for better brain health
1. Keep that brain in tip-top shape
We all have heard the adage “use it or lose it.” This is particularly prudent advice when it comes to help keeping your memory and brain function in the best shape possible. The more the brain is mentally stimulated, the better it can foster connections between nerve cells and even producing new brain cells.
Examples of activities that may stimulate your brain include crossword puzzles, painting, reading or online brain games. Eligible UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members can unlock fun brain exercises through Renew Active®, a fitness program for your mind and body, at no additional cost.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
It is undeniable that a healthy diet can have wide-reaching benefits on a person’s physical health; it also can be a boon to cognitive health. Research suggests that a healthy diet can positively impact the brain’s ability to remember and potentially stave off dementia.
To reap the benefits of brain-boosting foods, reach for items that are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, nuts, avocados and olive oil. Try to stay away from foods high in trans and saturated fats, like cake, doughnuts and fatty cuts of beef.
3. Don’t shortchange your zzz’s
The brain is constantly busy during waking hours – even when relaxing on the couch, the brain can be firing on all cylinders. But while we sleep, the brain has a chance to relax and “detoxify” from the day. Scientists are learning that this process is critical to maintaining brain function, and in turn, helps keep the brain healthy and memory sharp.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Of course, everyone is different and medications can impact sleep. Consult your provider if you are having trouble getting adequate sleep.
4. Get moving
Regular physical activity can boost brain health. Set realistic fitness-related goals — maybe there is a hike you have always wanted to do, or you feel motivated to finish your first 5K or hit a nice bike trail. If you like the atmosphere and social nature of a gym, Renew Active members receive standard access to participating fitness locations at no additional cost.
5. Bottom line
Always be mindful of changes as you age. If you notice abnormal or rapid changes in memory or forgetfulness, talk to your provider. Additionally, if you have had COVID-19 and are experiencing "brain fog," it could be a post-COVID condition.
Practicing some or all of these strategies might help keep you ahead of the aging curve, but ultimately, it can be an important step to understand how your mind and body are changing. You are still capable of learning new skills and forming new memories as you age, as well as developing bonds with the people you love.