AHS Weekly Wellness News: Healthy Brains Linked to Healthy Lives

As we get older, our minds can stall and lapse. You might wonder if this is a “senior moment” or the early signs of dementia.

MyHealth.Alberta.ca describes dementia as a loss of mental skills—such as memory, problem-solving, and learning—that’s bad enough to interfere with your daily life. It usually gets worse over time.

While dementia is more common as we age, it is not part of normal aging.

Research is finding the risk of dementia in later years can be reduced with healthy brain development in early years. Your brain’s development begins well before you are born and continues throughout life. Our early experiences shape how our brains are built. A strong foundation increases the chances of living a longer, happier and more independent life. A weak foundation increases the risks of developing dementia.

Some factors that can reduce risk include controlling the use of drugs and alcohol, protecting yourself from head injuries by wearing a helmet when doing activities such as cycling and skiing and continuing to build your brain through education opportunities.

What is good for your heart is also good for your brain. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking, jogging, swimming or yoga, if it gets your heart pumping and your blood moving, it can help your brain stay healthy. One theory is that the increased blood flow to the brain due to exercise helps increase thinking and memory skills, and could protect against dementia, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Coping with stress and maintaining good mental health are also important as are keeping in touch with friends and family and doing activities you like. Remembering and thinking, whether through board or card games or attending lectures or courses, preserve brain function. Learning a new language or computer program also appears to be beneficial.  The long-term benefits of online “brain games” have yet to be established.

Remember, it’s never too late to start to improve your brain’s health.