We all do it. Hit the snooze button at least once instead of rising with our alarm. It’s a mechanism many of us use to grab just a few more moments of sleep. While we may drift off for a few seconds, more often we lie in a semi-conscious fog, simply not wanting to get up. Soon, ten, twenty, even sixty minutes are snooze buttoned away. Enough! Don’t hit the snooze button-let’s get up, address our sleep issues and enjoy more memorable moments.
Started planning yet? Thanksgiving lists have begun, invitations are out and I’m knee deep in recipe testing. Now that it’s November and our jack-o-lanterns have turned to mush, the holidays are officially upon us. That typically means more gatherings with friends, family, and new or old acquaintances. It also means having to remember so much more.
This can be a good or a not so good thing. It’s good to exercise our minds and memories as we meet and gather with new and old friends and family. We use different parts of our brain as we engage with others and it’s a way to exercise our brains we cannot do alone. On the other hand, as memory issues slowly or dramatically make their appearance, social gatherings tend to highlight the problem. Often as family and friends, we tend to make excuses for those we love and chalk up memory lapses to many things, least of all an official problem.
Now this isn’t if Great Aunt Nellie can’t remember every great niece and nephew. All of us have some trouble with names, and when pressed, it can be difficult to remember everyone’s vital information. But if Aunt Nellie seems to have a hard time remembering even the simplest things, especially her favorite things and people, it may be time to seek some professional help.
So often, memory loss occurs for years before anyone seeks help. We explain it away as stress, grief, or old age. All of these can contribute to episodic memory loss. It’s also difficult to point out to our loved ones that their memory doesn’t seem to be what it once was. But the longer we put off the conversation, the more damage is done. The sooner it’s addressed, the sooner treatments and strategies can be implemented to improve memory and quality of life.
The holidays are busy and paying attention to our elder loved ones can seem like one more thing to do. But one way to truly honor them and their importance in our lives is to really pay attention to their memory and overall wellness. A fantastic resource to review before the holidays is the Know the Ten Signs resource by the Alzheimer’s Association. It can provide some vital background information to have on hand to help anyone with memory challenges.
Socializing with those we care about is one of the best parts of the holiday season. Engaging with others stimulates all of our memories and brains in a healthy way. But if any troubling signs are noticed in our loved ones, let’s not hesitate to begin a discussion. Early detection can save precious moments and make them more meaningful and memorable.
Habits keep us on track-they help us maintain routine, make things easier and even help us remember better. But when bad habits invade our lives, they can be difficult to change. One of the most important habits we can control that impacts our body and mind wellness is our eating habits. Lately, mine haven’t been the best and now I’m paying the price.
Stress, a busy schedule, life events, and let’s just say a bit of laziness has led me to not always make the best food choices lately. It’s a slippery slope and often one not so great choice leads to another and soon weight gain, lack of concentration and overall malaise is the result.
What we feed our bodies is what we feed our brains. Research has shown those who eat healthier often have better cognitive recall and function as they age. There are a myriad of reasons why this occurs and they probably work in tandem for our overall health. The bottom line is if we eat well, we think better.
Many of us know what good food is-fresh, less processed and includes a variety of good fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Yet convenience often trumps healthy. So let’s review some options to make healthy food choices easier to benefit our memory wellness.
Fresh and whole over processed. When on the go, this isn’t as simple a choice. But if we can plan ahead a bit, it becomes a bit easier. Stop at the store instead of the drive through. Go to the produce section rather than the frozen food aisle. Often fresh food doesn’t take much more time to prepare than the processed kind. Choosing whole grains over processed gives us more of the beneficial vitamins and fiber. Food stores and buffet lines often have salad or other fresh options right next to the unhealthier options. Choose well.
Good fat over not so good fat. Olive oil, less saturated oils like canola or sunflower give us a better option for fats. Butter is a staple in my home too, but when possible swap it out for other healthier options or minimize its usage. Our bodies and brains need fat to function well, but too much of the wrong kind can be detrimental to our wellness.
More dark fruits and vegetables! Half our plate with each meal should be fruits and vegetables. Instead of chips or convenience snacks, reach for an apple or some carrots. Add healthy almond butter or hummus and it’s suddenly a much healthier and satisfying snack. Instead of extra potatoes or meat, fill up by eating the veggies first. The healthy antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in fresh fruits and vegetables are winners for our brains.
Even though we know how to eat well, we often don’t. But in the long run, convenience causes more problems than it solves. I’m going to rededicate myself to eating healthier for my body, brain and overall wellness, using these healthy habits as a guide. Hope you’ll join me!
How do you like to exercise? Some like a fitness class with the socialization and direction it provides. Others like a more solitary pursuit. Some are more flexible in their approach while others have a firm schedule they follow. Regardless of how you do it, it’s important to remember to exercise.
There’s a wealth of information on the impact of exercise on our minds and memories as well as the obvious impact it has on our overall wellness. Those with a variety of neurological diseases and impairments find exercise increases strength, improves endurance, and minimizes symptoms. Individuals with memory concerns find it can improve overall memory as well as physical function as they age.
There’s really no reason to delay, it’s time to make exercise a priority in our lives starting now! When we remember to exercise we assist our bodies and minds to age as well as possible. The sooner we do it and make it a daily habit, the better we’ll feel and function now and in the future.
Here a few tips to help us all with our own exercise goals this #SummerToRemember:
- Get outside! Often exercising outside doesn’t feel like exercise, more like fun!
- Make it a habit. Go for a walk every morning or evening, join a regular class, schedule it into your calendar-whatever you need to do to make it a habit.
- Use what’s available. We don’t need special equipment to exercise-walk, do strength exercises with soup cans or your own body weight, or swim at the local pool.
- Get cleared and if necessary, seek professional help. If you have any medical or health issues, get the okay from your doctor to begin a new exercise regimen. If you haven’t exercised in a while or just want to have a professional get you started, seek help from a physical therapist or licensed trainer. It’ll get you started off well on your exercise habit!
- Listen to your body. As expected, new exercises will make us sore as we use our muscles in different ways. But extreme or continued pain, inflammation or weakness are signs to rest and/or see your doctor if not improved with rest.
Let’s remember to exercise our bodies this #SummerToRemember. It will help our bodies, our brains, our memory and all those summer memories we’re making!
We don’t think about exercising our brains as much as our bodies, but we should.
In order to age well, we not only need to take care of our bodies, but also pay attention to maintaining our brains, too. Studies have shown those who stay mentally engaged retain cognitive function longer than those who don’t exercise their minds. This week in our #SummerToRemember series, let’s explore ways to stay mentally sharp.
How do you exercise your brain? In our middle years, we have numerous mental challenges bombarding our brains all day long. We long for the day when we can physically and mental relax a bit in retirement. But that attitude can lead to golden years of lackluster cognitive function. In order to have sharp minds now AND later, we need to stimulate our minds daily, no matter our age.
Retirees may feel they deserve a break-as well they do. However, if we choose to not engage in mentally challenging activities as we age, we will lose the ability to think and function at a high level. It’s the ‘use it or lose it’ adage that applies to both physical and mental ability. When we exercise our brains, we then have more brain power to call upon when needed. It’s that simple.
When life shifts into retirement or a different season of life, how can we continue to challenge ourselves? By being creative!
Daily life offers a plethora of choices and options to stimulate our minds, but are we capitalizing on them? Whether it’s working, raising a family, juggling both children and parents, caring for grandchildren, or just managing our aging lives, we all have choices. How we choose to spend our time truly matters.
Are we engaging mentally in something that stimulates our brains or do we choose easier, more passive ways of spending our days? Are we using our time wisely or taking the path of least resistance to just get by? What we choose will make a difference in our mental capacity later in life. If we always choose the easy path and don’t challenge ourselves mentally, we’ll have less ability to do so later.
Let’s pick the road less travelled as Robert Frost put it. Let’s do simple things like take a different route or figure it out without relying on GPS. Let’s do the math in our head instead of using a calculator. Let’s create a new recipe instead of making the same old thing for dinner. Let’s try a new game, read a different type of book, join a new club or make a new friend. All these simple choices can make a world of difference in how our brain functions now and when we’re older.
The added benefit of challenging ourselves mentally is the good feelings it evokes. Trying something new or different feels uncomfortable at first. But after a while, we settle in, find our groove and eventually can take pride in even attempting something outside our box. Endorphins are released and happier, more satisfying feelings result. WIN, WIN, WIN!!
Give it whirl. Try something new, step out of your normal routine and stimulate your brain more than usual. Do it today, tomorrow and the next day so your future self will thank you. Make it a #SummerToRemember by challenging yourself mentally!