Building a healthy brain loaded with useful information took a lot of time while you were growing up. Keeping your brain healthy also takes effort. In fact, protecting yourself against cognitive decline will require you to take positive action on many fronts.
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While physical isolation can certainly be problematic, experts strongly encourage everyone, but older folks in particular, to avoid putting themselves in an echo chamber of the same information every day. If you love a particular television series, go ahead and enjoy it, but make sure you take in new information for at leas that much time each day.
You may be alone, but you don’t necessarily need to be isolated. You may need to schedule a daily email or phone call with a friend, or you may do better with a couple of pen pals that you can exchange actual letters with. Keep a journal so you can track each day’s events and activities and have something to share.
Move Your Body to Support Your Brain
Getting in the habit of daily exercise is a great way to protect your bone health as well as your brain health. If you can work hard enough to break a sweat, all the better.
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However, even if all you do is get out and enjoy a walk, you will be increasing your circulation. If you’re housebound, get up and march in place for 5 minutes each hour. If you’re in a wheelchair, do your best to move your arms.
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Fight Stress to Fight Cognitive Decline
For many elderly, the pandemic was a time of great financial stress. If your job went away during the pandemic, you may have had to wait for unemployment or other assistance, or you may have had to sign up for social security earlier than you expected.
Now is the time to learn new skills. This may mean learning more frugal methods of cooking, how to sell things online, or how to turn your hobby into money. If you have internet, look for YouTube tips on thrifty living.
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Finally, consider a daily meditation practice. If you already have a prayer habit, increase your frequency to help your mind find a space to stay calm.
Pile Your Plate With the Right Food to Protect Your Brain
Whether money is tight or not, do your best to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Many veggies are much less expensive than meats, and if you can tolerate eggs, you can meet your protein needs very cheaply.
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In addition to learning new recipes, do try to increase your intake of raw produce each day to support your cleansing organs, particularly your gut. If you have been eating a lot of processed foods during the pandemic, start by adding something raw to just one meal a day to avoid overloading your gut with roughage. Fiber shock can be dangerous and will make you miserable.
Learn Something New to Build New Memories
Look for new skills that will allow you to maintain fine motor skills. If you love fabrics, study up on quilting. If you love yarns, consider investing in a weaving tool. Treat yourself to the tools necessary to make this work; for example, a magnifying glass that hangs around your neck can make embroidery, quilting and other needle skills.
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Don’t worry about creating something that can be sold or even given as a gift. Your goal with these new projects is to use your hands in ways that require you to engage your brain in a new way. This can be anything from learning to make lace to learning to play the recorder. Your brain has to build a new connection when you learn a new skill. Without building up the steps to build those new connections, your brain actually loses the ability to make those connections.
If you’re stuck in isolation and can’t get out to make connections with your loved ones, there are steps you can take to boost your brain health. Move your body, protect your gut with healthy produce, and learn something new. Drag your old craft kit out of the closet to build that new skillset. Read a new author, watch a new news program, or study up on a new perspective.
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