1. Learn new things—the more challenging, the better
If there’s one thing that keeps your brain alive and making new connections, it’s learning something new and challenging. Staying mentally sharp requires taking on unfamiliar and challenging activities that provide broad stimulation mentally and socially. Learn a new language, or how to play the piano. Take a cooking class in your favorite cuisine. Learn macrame or American Sign Language. Dig into some challenging reading, as well as crosswords, sudoku, cryptoquips and other puzzles.
2. Exercise with friends
Thirty minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week increases the flow of blood to the brain and can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30 to 50%. Regular exercise is even better for you when you do it with friends, or in a group setting, because a strong social network keeps depression and loneliness at bay (both of which heighten the risk of developing dementia). Power walk your neighborhood with your partner or a friend. Take up Zumba or Jazzercize. Join a water aerobics class. While you’re at it, strengthen your handgrip. Recent medical studies have noted poorer grip strength was associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Furthermore, as you age, the stronger your grip, the more likely you are to survive diseases like cancer.
3. Eat like a Mediterranean
In many studies, those who eat a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other staples of the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (as much as 72% lower) than those who eat more animal proteins, processed foods, and sugars. A similar approach that is more targeted to boosting brain health is the MIND diet (a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
4. Pay attention to Vitamin D levels
Studies suggest that healthy Vitamin D levels are connected to a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Vitamin D may play a role between muscular and cognitive function. Vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked to muscle weakness and loss. Whether that’s cause or effect, or both, is still not known. But keeping your levels of Vitamin D in the healthy range is a good idea.
5. Yoga and meditation
Yoga can improve posture, flexibility, balance and coordination and is beneficial for bone density, and meditation helps reduce stress and improve awareness and mindfulness. Together, they can slow the physical and mental declines often seen with aging. A weekly routine of yoga and meditation may bolster brain activity and help delay cognitive decline.
Per Dr. Andrew Weil, take a supplement high in folic acid and other B vitamins. They help the body get rid of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid formed by the breakdown of animal protein that has been linked to heart attack and stroke, and more recently with increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Turmeric + black pepper, curcumin and CDP-choline may also benefit mental fitness.
7. Eliminate or reduce your intake of alcohol (One drink/day for women; two drinks/day for men.)
Alcohol is implicated in falls and general loss of balance, which can cause fractures; and is a factor in forgetfulness, confusion and depression. Alcohol does not mix well with a number of medications, and heavy alcohol use decreases bone density. Alcohol can weaken your immune system. Heavy drinking over time can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels, shrink brain cells and lead to alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), as well as certain types of dementia.
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8. Quit smoking
If you like breathing, are not a fan of cancer or emphysema — and don’t want to look way older than your age — quitting smoking is a must and one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
9. Believe in yourself
Commonly held beliefs about aging do not have to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Focus on personal growth and healthy habits. If you believe in yourself and your natural gifts, keep learning new things, and approach life with a youthful, curious, grateful attitude, these could be some of the most rewarding years of your life.
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Tampa Bay Times 2023 Medicare Guide
Everything Florida seniors need to know to get ready for Medicare enrollment is available at tampabay.com/medicare.
• HOW MEDICARE WORKS: Here’s what seniors need to know about open enrollment, how Medicare works and how to find the best coverage for 2022.
• COMPARE MEDICARE PLANS: The Times has assembled a chart to help Tampa Bay residents shop for the best 2022 coverage in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.
• COMPARE PRESCRIPTION PLANS: This chart shows the plans available in Florida under Medicare’s Part D program for prescription drugs.
• FINDING HELP: Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, is a state program that connects with seniors online or by phone to help them navigate the Medicare benefits. Call 1-800-963-5337 or visit floridashine.org.
• COVID SHOTS SAVED SENIORS’ LIVES: Primary immunizations were associated with up to 680,000 fewer COVID hospitalizations and between 330,000 to 370,000 fewer related deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in 2021
• MILLIONS WILL SAVE IN MEDICARE FEES: The rare 3% decrease in monthly premiums will be coupled with a historically high cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits.
• BILLIONS IN BENEFITS UNUSED: Millions of older adults are having trouble making ends meet, especially during these inflationary times. Yet many don’t realize help is available, and some notable programs that offer financial assistance are unused.
• LIFE IS A BALANCING ACT, UNTIL YOU FALL: Maintaining good health is key to a longer life.
• 9 TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY AS YOU AGE: Ideas for staying healthy longer.