Two very good lifestyle practices to make a part of your daily routine are a balanced, nutritious diet and mentally stimulating activity.
This probably comes as no surprise, as these are fairly standard practices for health and wellbeing. The problem is that the majority of seniors could be doing more in both of these areas.
Studies show that a diet based in whole foods, and rich in nutrients, can help lower the risk of dementia. One good example of this is how the Mediterranean diet has been shown to help preserve memory and prevent cognitive decline.
Games that help keep the mind active and sharp are another good approach to help preserve cognitive function.
Studies have also supported ‘brain training games’, to keep the brain healthy and nimble.
Mediterranean Diet Linked to Brain Health
A diet consisting of plant-based foods, as well as quality fish and poultry, has been shown to have positive effects on overall health.
A nutritious diet of this nature has been associated with reduced risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The name makes it sound like a specific diet that is prevalently eaten in southern Europe. However, the original Mediterranean diet spans across southern Europe, west Asia, and north Africa, and there are a range of foods that are common in these regions.
The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle, that has been adopted by many people all over the earth.
What does the Mediterranean Diet include?
There is a loose guideline that can be followed for people looking to implement the Mediterranean diet, and the specifics can be filled in based on your own personal preferences.
The diet typically includes:
- Healthy oils
- Fruit and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Low fat dairy
Fish is a staple of a healthy diet. Fish with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, salmon, and trout are particular effective for helping to reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Quality poultry is also a good way to get your required protein.
You will want to target oils that have been the least processed, like virgin and extra virgin olive oil. These healthy oils are rich in antioxidants, which are a good anti-inflammatory, and are helpful for preventing illness and disease.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are heavily targeted in a Mediterranean diet. Leafy greens are especially favorable, but you can never have too many fruits and vegetables.
If bread is going to be part of your diet, then it is crucial you eat bread made with whole grains. Processed, white bread offers zero nutritional value.
Pasta and rice included in your diet should also be made with whole grains.
There is also the gluten free option for those that have trouble digesting wheat.
Nuts and Seeds
Unsalted nuts and seeds make an excellent snack because they can fill you up, but are low in saturated fat.
Low Fat Dairy
If you are going to include dairy in your diet, make sure it is low fat and try to use it sparingly.
Foods to Avoid
Avoid any processed foods, and products that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Any products with trans fats should be absolutely avoided.
Brain Games can Help Prevent Cognitive Decline
Research has indicated that brain training games like puzzles, word games, boardgames, and cards are good for cognition.
Games that involve social engagement offer a double bonus, as verbal interaction is a useful activity for the brain. It also helps prevent boredom, which can lead to social isolation and depression.
Card games are social, fun, and healthy for the mind.
Some mentally stimulating card games that exercise the memory, include:
- Gin rummy
- Go fish
Aside from cards, there are many other good games to play with your aging loved one to invigorate the brain.
Some examples, might be:
- Chess – excellent for focus and planning
- Trivial pursuit – great for memory and general knowledge
- Checkers – a good one to play with the grandchildren
- Bingo – great social activity requiring concentration
- Scrabble – useful for language and math skills, different every time
- Dominoes – requires both forward thinking and memory
- Sudoku – good for logic and problem solving
- Crossword puzzles – good for helping the brain make connections
- Solitaire – good game to play if there is no one else around, pattern recognition
There are all kinds of mentally stimulating activities that can help prevent early cognitive decline and the onset of dementia. Those activities, combined with social interaction, a healthy diet, and physical exercise all help to keep the brain healthy and sharp.