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HEALTH MIND & BODY
Healthy aging for the brain and body
Byline info is not available
Thursday, November 29, 2012 1:00 PM
Regular exercise and proper eating habits are no doubt fundamental pillars for the body in terms of healthy aging. And it should be no surprise that experts link those activities to mental wellness, too.
Paul Hartman, social services coordinator for King's Daughters' Health, said physical and mental wellness go hand-in-hand.
"The two are really so interconnected," he said.
To assist healthy aging, doctors suggest regular exercise and also eating "brain foods," or fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, which can protect and nourish brain cells. Antioxidants also prevent cholesterol damage in arteries, which would slow down blood flow to the brain.
The Mayo Clinic suggests healthy aging techniques such as staying active as a volunteer and exercising the mind with challenging jigsaw puzzles or a good book. The agency says those activities are proven to combat memory loss.
A Mayo Clinic study showed that engaging the mind can decrease the risk of mild cognitive impairment, which is a transitional state between normal aging and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The study found that reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and crafting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. Individuals who watched less than seven hours of television per day were less likely to show signs of the impairment.
As the Mayo Clinic study states, mild cognitive impairment often resembles the first signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
If a person is struggling with memory loss, a complete medical exam should review the person's medical history, including the use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems and general health, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Blood and urine tests can help the doctor find the cause of the memory problems or dementia. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service says that people stricken with dementia lose their mental abilities at different rates, while those with Alzheimer's tend to see a slower transition.
What better way to stay busy than by doing something you love? That hobby you've been toying with could be your prescription for a healthier, more satisfying life.
Hobbies can engage you physically and mentally. People who have a hobby "are generally healthier," said Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University. "We also know they are at a lower risk for depression and dementia. The great value of hobbies is they're a way for people to stay engaged on multiple levels."
Most hobbies involve at least some level of mental activity, Lichtenberg said. Because we enjoy most things more when we share them, hobbies offer a reason to stay connected to other people with similar interests.
What kind of hobby is best?
Hobbies that require expertise are more satisfying, Dr. Lichtenberg says. That's because developing an expertise in something like photography or astronomy requires commitment, and commitment results in a higher level of engagement. Of course, hobbies that involve physical fitness, such as walking, "provide a physical benefit as well," he said.
Psychologist Michael Brickey, Ph.D., is the author of the book "Defy Aging." His focus is on helping people stay physically and mentally active so they can enjoy their later years. Brickey said hobbies help by reducing stress and providing a sense of accomplishment.
"Hobbies can be thought of on three levels," Brickey said. "The first is as a diversion. Hobbies help us pass the time. The second is as a passion. When a hobby becomes a passion, we become truly engaged in doing something we love. It not only helps us pass time, it makes us unaware that time is passing. The third level is as something that creates a sense of purpose. We all need that." The ideal hobby, he said, combines all three levels.
"Hobbies can become so important, especially if they are a way to connect with others, that they become part of who we are," Brickey adds.
Get started now
If you're looking for a hobby, plenty of folks can help.
The Columbus Regional Hospital Health Library
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