Tips to boost your brain and maintain its health

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"The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together."

- Kurdish Saying

I have written many articles about the importance of maintaining a healthy brain. Increasingly, we read articles that emphasize the connections between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy brain.

What is a healthy lifestyle? Let's review a few tips that can help maintain a healthier brain.

Get mental stimulation everyday. Research has proven, and doctors suspect, that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, developing neurological "plasticity" and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.

Get physical exercise. Exercise spurs the development of new cells and increases the connections between brain cells, or synapses. The results are a brain that is more efficient, flexible and adaptive. Never underestimate the value of just 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Keep a good diet. It just makes sense. Spotlighting vegetables, fruit, low sugar, low carbohydrates and high fiber, the Mediterranean diet is the one to follow.

Don't abuse alcohol or tobacco products. Moderation is the key. Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia.

Care for your emotions. Anxiety, depression, stress and lack of sleep play critical roles in keeping our brains healthy. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor - especially if you are a caregiver for someone with dementia.

Protect your head. Enjoy bike riding? Wear a helmet.

Build social networks. This is probably the most important factor. Even if you are house-bound for some reason, get on the phone. Face Time and Skype are great ways to stay in touch with your friends and family.

I am always concerned about our caregivers because their social life suffers when caring for someone with dementia. Memory Matters promotes family events to help create lasting relationships with other caregivers.

Memory Matters is serious about brain health. So serious in fact, we are offering Brain Booster at two locations in September. Our classes are fun, informative and a great way to jump start new habits towards maintaining a healthy brain.

For information call us at 843-842-6688 or visit our website at www.memory-matters.org. Also look for our ad in this newspaper. Make the right decision today.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org

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