It’s one of Dr. Eugene Odum’s (the late UGA environmental guru) laws of ecology: Everything is connected to everything else. It’s also the basis of a healthy lifestyle. There is probably nothing in this column that you don’t already know, but perhaps repetition will reinforce these truths enough to cause you to say, “Yes, of course,” as I did - and act upon them.
They come from the Alzheimer’s Association, but they could easily be from the Heart Association or organizations dealing with diabetes, high cholesterol, depression or other problems that keep us from living life at its fullest. I was one of very few that attended a recent program at the Senior Center, which focused on “maintaining your brain.” Recommendations in the four areas of lifestyle that affect brain health are not restricted to us old folks; they are good for people of any age. ‘Tis a matter of doing, not just knowing.
Those four areas are diet, exercise, mental activity and social activity. They are definitely interrelated. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for doing well in just one or two areas, though something is a little better than nothing.
Diet: We are bombarded with advice about at least five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, no trans-fats, etc. We are learning that some of the good things may be better at reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer than others, and they appear also to protect brain cells: dark-skinned vegetables and fruits, cold-water fish, for example.
Not always the ones I like best, but I can deliberately choose some of them.
Notice this sentence (from Alzheimer’s Association materials): A brain-healthy diet is most effective when combined with physical and mental activity and social interaction.
Exercise: Physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or even require a major time commitment, but it is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain and can greatly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It should be done regularly — and note this — is most effective in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction.
Mental Activity: What kind? Almost anything that stimulates brain cells because they can increase in vitality and even new cells can be generated. Read, keep informed, play board games and cards, work puzzles, plan a garden, build a model, even write a letter (or a column).
Social Interaction: Research shows that sports, cultural activities, emotional support and close personal relationships appear to have a protective effect against dementia. The Alzheimer’s material stresses “again, the combination of physical and mental activity with social engagements, and a brain-healthy diet, is more effective than any of these factors alone.”
(And I would add to this list: a strong spiritual life.)
Now don’t say I didn’t share the good news!
Helen Taylor’s column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.