Recently I watched a “Discover Brain Health” webinar hosted by Illinois Extension. The beginning of the webinar focuses on the key risk factors for cognitive decline including mid-life obesity, diabetes, hypertension and hearing loss. Other key risk factors are low education, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and social isolation. There are also diet factors that increase an individual’s risk for cognitive decline. These include low B12, low vitamin D, too much alcohol, high-calorie diets and artificial sweeteners. Finally, there are chronic health conditions that increase someone’s risk which encompass gum disease, poor sleep, sleep apnea and chronic stress or anxiety.
While there are many risk factors for cognitive decline, there are also many things you can do to promote your brain’s health. The brain benefits from quality sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. Remember that half your plate should include fruits and vegetables at meals. Exercise as often as you are able. Every little bit helps. In addition, the brain also benefits from stress management, social connections and intellectual challenges. Take a break or talk to someone when you are feeling stressed. Make sure you stay connected to your family and friends whether it's writing letters, texting, or talking on the phone. Challenge yourself intellectually by engaging in activities like sudoku, crossword puzzles, cooking, or learning a new craft, skill or language.
Overall, there were some key takeaways from this webinar. People need to work all parts of their brain all throughout their life by engaging in a variety of different activities. Individuals should strive to learn something new every day by focusing on things they enjoy. Finally, keep challenging yourself in new ways.
For more information on brain health visit the following website from the American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/brain-health.
April Lorraine Anderson is UW-Extension Monroe County health and well-begin educator/FoodWIse coordinator.
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