a senior keeping an active healthy lifestyle with family

Your brain and healthy aging

Be proactive, stay motivated and plan ahead

As the average lifespan increases, we are more focused than ever on health and wellbeing for the long-term. A major part of this is an interest in brain health, which is a crucial part of aging well. Importantly, cognitive disorders like dementia are not necessarily a normal part of aging; however, age is the strongest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It is well-established, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, that aging can impair the body’s self-repair mechanisms, including the brain.

While any health issues can negatively impact your experience of retirement and the later years, more serious cognitive problems – beyond age-related memory issues – can be particularly insidious, underscoring the importance of planning ahead. This will ensure your financial, housing and other affairs are in order, and your wishes are carried out in the way you would like. It can also make it easier for caregivers to manage your affairs on your behalf.

Research shows there are things we can all do to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. According to Dr. Carol Greenwood, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, up to 50% of the cases of Alzheimer’s disease may be the result of diet and lifestyle. This means there is a real opportunity to lower the burden of dementias in the Canadian population through improving diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Here are some tips from the Alzheimer Society of Canada to maintain and improve brain health:

Opt for a varied diet rich in dark-coloured fruits and vegetables, including foods rich in anti-oxidants, such as blueberries and spinach; and omega 3 oils found in fish and canola oils.

Practice relaxation, meditation or other stress reduction techniques.

Regular moderate physical activity helps maintain cardiovascular health and can significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and diabetes.

Keep your brain active every day. Challenging your brain regularly may reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, so it is important to give your brain a regular workout. Pursue a new interest, learn a language, play a musical instrument, take a course, visit galleries and museums, enjoy old and new hobbies.

Staying connected socially helps you stay connected mentally. Social interaction appears to have a protective effect against dementia. Pick up the phone, stay connected to family and friends, get together with your neighbours. Spend time with people who have a positive outlook. The more engaged you are, the better.

Brain injuries, especially repeated concussions, are risk factors for dementia. By protecting your head you are caring for your brain today and in the future. The Alzheimer Society suggests the following: Wear an approved helmet when engaging in sporting activities such as skating, skiing, skateboarding, rollerblading and cycling. Protect against concussions by avoiding falls. Check your house for safety hazards: install handrails, arrange for snow clearance and throw out the scatter rugs.

For retirees in particular, being active and healthy and avoiding a sedentary and unstimulating lifestyle can slow the rate of age-related memory loss and even lessen the risk of serious cognitive problems like dementia.

Ensure your health and financial wellbeing are aligned as you enter your later years. Talk to a Richardson Wealth Investment Advisor for assistance with retirement planning. 

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