Sunday, July 8, 2018

#Alzheimer’s - Aging and Brain Strength

By Constance Washington, RN, VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans

HEALTH- June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a good time to reflect on mental sharpness—no matter what your age.

Isolated incidents where someone cannot recall a person’s name, phone number, or where they placed the keys, and other minor bouts of forgetfulness, are common. Noting that these memory lapses are likely due to the chemical and structural age-related changes in thinking skills can help bring peace of mind. But it’s a good idea to check in with your physician if you or a loved one seems more forgetful than usual and displays dramatic changes in appetite or sleep patterns, excessive worry or agoraphobia, panic attacks or increasingly erratic behaviors such as aggression, paranoia, wandering or rummaging around the house, getting lost in familiar places, or if there is a noted decline in organization and planning skills.

Any of these behaviors could signal early signs of age-related dementia and should be discussed with a health professional. My colleagues and I at VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans coordinate care for homebound seniors so they can live safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible. To help those we care for stay mentally sharp and feeling their best, we encourage them to follow these easy-to-do steps to maintaining good mental health.

Embrace recognition instead of trusting recall. Humans are better at recognition than recall, making it easier to remember something they read, such as a note or list, than something they’re simply told.

Recognize the value of repetition. People are more inclined to remember what they hear if they repeat it out loud, such as names and addresses.

Eat a healthy diet.

A study of 27,000 people in 40 countries published in 2015 in the journal Neurology found that people who consumed healthy diets with lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and little alcohol and red meat were less likely to experience declines in their memory and thinking skills.

Break things down.

Breaking things down into small chunks can help improve memory. Instead of trying to remember a whole speech, focus on a single sentence at a time.

Work your brain.

Reading, writing, completing puzzles and even playing along with TV game shows are fun ways to keep the mind sharp and active, offering opportunities to practice memorization.

Exercise/staying physically active. 

Exercise is overall good for the body. Maintaining an active lifestyle helps to improve memory and thinking skills.

Routine prevention/screening medical follow-ups. 

Illness can affect your brains ability to function optimally so it’s very important to go for your routine medical check-ups.

Social and recreational activity. 

Involvement in recreational activities such as playing cards, or working on puzzles helps to stimulate brain function and provides sociable times with family or friends.

Periodic memory lapses are often nothing to worry about. 

However, ongoing problems should be discussed with your primary care provider or a neurologist.

(Constance Washington of VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans is a Registered Nurse and Care Coordinator. The Visiting Nurse Service of New York is the largest not-for-profit home- and community-based health care agency in the United States, providing quality private care services.To learn more, visitwww.vnsnychoice.orgor call 1-855-AT CHOICE (1-855-282-4642).

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