NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Nourish Your Brain for Optimal Health

brain health, cognitive decline, memory strategies, Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Did you know—cognitive decline can be delayed even later in life if you make lifestyle changes?

Many studies done on brain health have indicated that improving your diet and exercising your brain can help cognitive activity. Eating foods rich in antioxidants, physical activity, and keeping your brain sharp with games and learning are all important for a healthy brain.

Even though cognitive decline can begin as early as our 20s, not all cognitive functions decline as early. Cognitive skills refer to our ability to make rapid comparisons, remember unrelated information, and detect relationships. However, vocabulary or general knowledge consistently increases until at least age 60, so we still can gain knowledge even though the brain’s ability to make connections slows.

Chances are, you have misplaced your car keys or eyeglasses or forgotten a person’s name at least a few times. Many people worry about these memory lapses, thinking they are just part of getting older and nothing can be done about them. However, older adults can benefit from practicing memory strategies, such as the following:

  • Pay attention. Being aware of what is happening increases and exercises your memory. Avoid distractions because interruptions cause us to forget what we were doing.
  • Get organized. Take notes because short-term memory can hold only seven items at one time. Choose your seven and jot down notes on the others.
  • Use association. Try name-face association. For new information, ask yourself how the information relates to ideas with which you already are familiar. Try familiar stimuli, such as repeating or grouping similar ideas. Example: Remember that your new neighbor, Kathy, has the same name as your cousin Kathy.
  • Remember through teaching. Explain your new memory/idea to others in your own words. This is a great tool for increasing memory.
  • Say it out loud. Repeat aloud what you want to remember, recite what you are reading, paraphrase and review notes out loud. Repetition is an effective way to improve memory.
  • Use calendars, day planners, journals, diaries and “todo” lists. These tools help you remember important dates, appointments and times. Keep them in a place where you are likely to notice them, such as by the phone or on the fridge.
  • Use electronic reminders. Try medication systems that buzz, or label or color code boxes and drawers.
  • Consider the time of day. Consider the optimal time of day for performing mental tasks. Morning is best for older adults.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your brain health, the North Dakota State University Extension Service can help. The Extension office in Mercer County is holding a class at 3 p.m., Monday, July 28 at the Beulah Civic Center.

This class is part of NDSU Extension’s Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program. The program is designed to provide rural North Dakotans age 50 and older with information and strategies to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. However, any adult can benefit from the information.

Source: July Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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