Aging is a part of life. As we grow older, often our mind slows down, we can become forgetful and it can be harder to multi-task. This natural part of aging has been referred to as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a condition in which people have more memory or other thinking problems than is normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their daily lives. MCI has been described as a transition period between normal aging and dementia. Some older people with MCI can be at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease, but not all are.
Dr. Purvi Saraiya, M.D., a board-certified Adult Neurologist, who works with St. Clare Commons Memory Care and The Toledo Clinic, recommends four ways that could help slowdown MCI’s progress and stabilize it -- physical exercise, diet, socialization and brain exercises.
Physical Exercise. Dr. Saraiya recommends 30-minutes of daily low impact, aerobic exercise. She emphasized that this physical exercise should be done daily, to have desired benefit. This can include walking outside or on a treadmill, biking outside or stationary, swimming, or whatever you enjoy or prefer. A study by J. Carson Smith, PhD, a kinesiologist, confirms her advice. In his study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, August 2013, he found that being on a moderate exercise program for just 12 weeks improved neural efficiency and participants were using fewer neural resources to perform the same memory task.
A moderate exercise program has been described as one that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat, but isn’t so strenuous that you can’t hold a conversation while doing it on most days for a weekly total of 150 minutes.
Antioxidant Diet. Dr. Saraiya recommends an antioxidant diet that is rich in nutrients. She stresses fruit, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based foods, nuts, seeds and beans. All can play a factor in improving brain health. Three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Look for colorful fruit and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hues to add to your diet.
Socialization. An important part of stabilizing MCI is socialization. She particularly recommends volunteer work as one way to stay involved. According to Dr. Saraiya, it gets the happy endorphins going when you do something for someone else. Stay involved. Visit the Senior Center. Go to a YMCA Silver Sneakers class. Call friends and family to go for coffee or dinner. It is important to stay connected.
Brain (Cognitive) Exercises. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, cards and board games all offer a chance to exercise your mind. Reading out loud to grandchildren or even to yourself helps. Do hands on crafts, knitting, woodworking or any activity that encourages you to use your creativity and concentrate. Even AARP recognizes the importance of keeping the mind healthy and has special programs on their website AARP.org to stimulate the brain as well as free online games.
Four lifestyle choices – physical and mental exercises, an antioxidant diet and socialization can help keep your mind healthy.