As we age, keeping a healthy brain and body should be one of our top priorities. However, an avalanche of information from all sources and advertising often cause more confusion than clarity. Filtering thru the conflicting reports is a key challenge. To help us with the challenge, AARP created the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) which consists of 94 experts representing 23 countries and 80 universities or research organizations. Before being able to give advice, the council needs to reach a consensus. Their goal is to keep researching in order to only provide accurate information that people can apply in their daily lives. The most interesting major finding of the council was that there was little justification for the billions of dollars people spend on supplements claiming to boost brain function. With the social media working in overtime, most of the information we are getting are from advertisements, and is a confusing mess.
On the other hand, the GCBH came up with the 5 pillars of brain health which can stop or at least slow down our cognitive functions as we age. Those pillars are the foundation of our health and wellbeing, and cognitive decline is not inevitable as most people think. If you work at it, you can make a difference in your brain’s health, and whatever your age, there are so many things you can do. All are related to the five pillars of brain health defined by the council:
- MOVE. Exercise is the first pillar. Keep on moving. Walking, dancing, swimming, playing tennis, racquetball, pickleball, hiking, bicycling, golfing, cleaning the house, gardening, you name it. All are good as long as you are getting out of that chair and having fun.
- RELAX. Sleep enough and avoid stress. This pillar is probably the hardest one to accomplish. Life is continually throwing curve balls at you such as stress linked with work, kids, finance, illnesses, divorce and so on. It is not easy but there are ways to cope with stress. For example, try to avoid too much excitement such as TV, phone, social media before bed. Sleep more. Learn some relaxing techniques. Ask for help if needed.
- NOURISH. Eat well. Eat a balanced diet with a lot of variety, colors and taste. Learn how to cook and eat more often at home. It is less expensive and healthier. Share recipes with friends and neighbors.
- DISCOVER. Think. Continue learning. Take some classes. Think about solutions, processes. You are never too old to practice and learn something new. Go on a trip. Learn a new language. Work your brain every day.
- CONNECT. Socialize. Stay in contact with your friends, neighbors and groups. Talk to them, help them, teach them a new skill, learn from them. Volunteer. Laugh, live and love. Play with your children and grandchildren. Enjoy life.
What works best? Nothing in particular. But if you have noticed, all five pillars are interconnected. They support each other. Any activities in one of the pillars will force you to reach a better level in another pillar. For example, I decide to join a hiking group for exercise, this help me to connect with a new group of friends, we go and discover new places, we learn new skills, we help each other in case of needs, we share meals, we share recipes, tips, we provide emotional support. We are having fun. We connect and broaden our network. What about dance, it’s fun, it involves other people, it’s exercise, it challenges you to learn patterns and movements. The same could be said for swimming!!!
As the holidays are just around the corner, I wish everybody to stay connected with your friends and family and cherish all the memories, to help somebody in need and connect with them. When thinking about your 2020 resolutions, think about those five pillars, as they are the foundation of your health. How would you be able to strengthen them for your own well-being as well as for the health of your family and friends. If you want more ideas linked with those pillars, you can go to www.aarp.or/gcbh