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Nevin-Woods: Keys to Healthy Aging – Entertainment & Life – Ag Journal Online – La Junta, CO

Sometimes it is difficult and confusing to think about how to become healthy once we become a senior. The good news is there is a great amount of research on healthy aging! Good nutrition, exercise, and sleep are very important as we age; these also promote brain health!

I recommend becoming a member of AARP, which provides interesting and helpful information. You can receive great updates and well written newsletters along with their magazine. Recently, there was an article titled Your Your Health in Your 60s… What you need to know. To join, go to AARP.Org. AARP can also be found on Facebook.

Many seniors worry about cognitive decline, but the majority of people do not have serious problems with cognition. If your doctor wrote out a prescription for your brain – one designed to protect against the kind of cognitive decline that makes you forget your best friend's name in social activities, take on a craft project. Do a mix of these activities three to five times a day.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic asked about 2,000 cognitively unimpaired adults, who were 70 and older, to try one or more of the activities above and keep a daily record. After five years, researchers discovered while the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was reduced in a single activity. In addition, it's not about engaging in an activity, it's about mixing up with two or more. Using a computer, for instance, was associated with a decreased risk of MCI regardless of when the participants got in the habit. Overall, gains were the greatest after the first year of taking on such new habits.

As for why taking a variety of activities rather than just one is particularly beneficial. Experts say that a combination of the brain requires a combination of work.

"In terms of higher function, we divide the brain into five domains: language, attention, memory, sense of direction, and emotional behavior regulation." The more domains you bring into the picture, the better it is for the brain. When you combine these activities, you have a well-coordinated symphony. To work more potential brain-saving activities into your own day, pencil them on your calendar to boost the likelihood you'll follow through. Doubling up on healthy habits is OK, too. If you're looking for ways to spend less time alone and make a dentist, join a book club at your local library. Brain booster. Try to learn something interesting every day.

People with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's compared to cognitively healthy adults. Unlike people who experience the kind of regular cognitive decline that happens with normal aging, people with MCI show more signs of forgetfulness and judgment. Healthy agers may forget some details, but they can still retain enough information to make an informed decision. If you believe you may have MCI, contact your doctor and discuss having an evaluation!

Good nutrition, exercise, and sleep also promote brain health and are very important!

Physical activity benefits. Among others, some physical activity is better than none.

Reducing sedentary behavior (to sit less and move more) and adding light activity, such as short walks, may be more reasonable goals. Activities do not have to be done at one time, but can be accumulated throughout the day. Start low and go slow!

Key benefits of exercise in older adults include improved strength, flexibility, mobility, and fitness, which can improve daily function, maintain independence and reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Group programs have an added benefit of providing social engagement.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) identify four categories for specific recommendations for exercises in all adults: aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, flexibility, and balance. AHA recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity (30 min for five days per week), but can also be spread out. An individualized activity plan if possible, is recommended and often be done at home.

Senior and community centers and gyms offer an evaluation plan. The Silver Sneakers fitness program and the National Institute of Health has a great Go4Life program on-line. Benefits are improved mood, better sleep, maintain weight and increased energy.

OK seniors, go for it!

Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, the former director and medical officer of the Pueblo City-County Department of Health

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