Healthy Aging For Dummies
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The brain changes that come with age are inevitable — but they don't have to slow you down or trip you up. There are some medical, natural, and nutritional ways to increase and balance neurotransmitters (natural chemical substances that transmit nerve impulses) when they do get out of balance.

Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medications, supplements, or beginning any other therapies for treating any perceived neurotransmitter deficiencies.

Check out these ways of staying alert and preventing memory loss:

  • Exercising your mind: Similar to the way your body needs physical activity, your mind needs to be exercised, too. Mental stimulation and exercises can actually protect against cognitive losses. Here are a few ways that you can challenge yourself:

• Play a musical instrument.

• Do crossword puzzles or other challenging board games.

• Socialize with family and friends.

• Start a new hobby.

• Stay interested and up to date on current events.

  • Staying physically active: Regular exercise can improve blood flow to the brain. Exercise increases your metabolism and energy levels, which can help improve your attention span.
  • Eating brain foods: Neurotransmitter health requires the same balanced diet as the rest of your body — protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Three neurotransmitters are especially important to keep your brain functioning well:

Acetylcholine: Foods rich in this chemical include egg yolks, peanuts, wheat germ, liver, meat, fish, milk, cheese, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Dopamine: These foods include all proteins, such as meat, milk products, fish, beans, nuts, and soy products.

Serotonin: Serotonin-rich foods are carbohydrate-based, such as pasta, starchy vegetables, potatoes, cereals, and breads.

    What else can you ingest to make that brain of yours healthy? Here are some tips:

• Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Many of these foods contain antioxidants — substances that protect and nourish brain cells. Antioxidants may help prevent cholesterol from damaging the lining of your arteries and slowing blood flow to your brain.

• Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and other cold- water fish. Eating fish at least once each week seems to protect against the cognitive decline associated with aging.

• Drink plenty of water. The brain is comprised of more water than any other organ in the body, at about 90 percent. A good guideline is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. If you drink coffee or alcohol, you have to add those ounces onto the total.

• Eat smaller, more frequent meals to increase your mental alertness. By eating smaller meals, there are less variations in the blood flow to the digestive tract and also more balance in blood sugars.

  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation: People who drink heavily for years are at a higher risk of developing memory problems and dementia.
  • Stopping smoking: Smoking is associated with dementia and one Dutch study found that smokers had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's compared to those who never smoked.
  • Managing your stress: Stress can cause the release of enzymes and hormones that can affect judgment and memory.
  • Getting enough rest: New evidence suggests that a regular pattern of eight hours of sleep per night helps protect you against age-related memory loss.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Brent Agin, MD, is a family physician in private practice and is also the medical director of a successful weight-loss clinic and laser medical spa. Sharon Perkins, RN, has coauthored five For Dummies books on women's health issues.

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