Time to take ‘senior moments’ seriously

Senior Matters
by Lesley Fernow

    I often hear people joking about middle age “senior moments,” as though this is something to be expected as we age. Behind these jokes is a natural worry: am I developing dementia? While it is true that our memory declines as we age, experts in aging have discovered that there are straightforward ways to delay this process and improve quality of life.

    Since aging of the brain is closely related to cardiovascular health, the most important strategies involve maintaining heart health. This means controlling blood pressure, exercising regularly, and controlling weight and cholesterol. Preventive practices focused on these areas not only prevent heart attacks and stroke, but also are likely to reduce risk of developing cognitive (thinking and memory) decline substantially.
    Other important brain health tools include eating a “heart healthy” diet, often also called a “Mediterranean diet.” This means eating mostly plant-based food: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes and seasoned with spices and herbs instead of salt. Fats should be limited to olive or canola oil. Fish and seafood should be eaten at least twice a week, and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt should be eaten in moderate portions occasionally. Meat and sweets should be eaten not more than a few times a month. An optional glass of red wine once a day (not more) may also protect.
    Following such a diet has been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s disease by 40 percent as well as heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
    Other important factors in maintaining brain health include getting adequate sleep, reducing stress, and “exercising the brain” by increasing social interactions, especially conversation.
    We will be exploring some of these factors in more detail in our Senior Matters columns. Next column we will address the health benefits of growing and eating fresh vegetables and local resources.
    We invite readers to offer feedback about this column and to suggest topics for future articles. You may do so by contacting Meg Callaway of the Charlotte White Center at (207) 947-1410 and mcallaway@charlottewhite.org or Lesley Fernow at (207) 992-6822 and lmfernow@rcn.com.

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