Being socially active can help keep your brain fit as you age. (submitted)

Challenge yourself during Brain Awareness Week

March 16-22

Have the winter doldrums slowed down your desire to eat well and stay physically and mentally active?

With spring comes Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22), the perfect time for Cowichan Valley residents to get back on track. It’s important to make the move because healthy lifestyle choices lead to a healthy brain and can lower your risk of dementia.

“The prevalence of dementia is on the rise and while researchers are working toward finding a cure and effective treatments, we can take steps to protect our brain health,” says Maria Howard, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. “There is strong and growing evidence that shows that key lifestyle changes such as regular physical activity, a heart-healthy diet, socialization and lifelong learning not only help lower the risk of dementia but also maintain or improve brain function as we age.”

Dementia develops when the risk factors for the disease combine and reach a level that overwhelms the brain’s ability to maintain and repair itself. While there is no guarantee, reducing as many of the risk factors as you can will keep your brain as healthy and strong as possible as you age.

In fact, according to recent research, combining four or five healthy lifestyle factors can reduce the risk of dementia by 60 per cent compared to adopting none or only one factor.

Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

• Challenge yourself — Learn a new hobby or language. Any kind of mental stimulation will fire up your neurons!

• Be socially active — Volunteer in your community or join a book club. Being social helps you stay connected mentally.

• Eat well — Create healthy meals that include a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need for a balanced diet. Choosing healthy foods can improve your general health, help maintain brain function and slow memory decline over the long term.

• Be physically active — Start with a 10-minute walk around the block a few times a week. Regular exercise pumps blood to the brain, which nourishes the cells with the nutrients and oxygen they need and may even encourage new cells.

• Reduce your stress — Try five minutes of daily meditation to help lower your stress level. Constant stress can cause vascular changes and chemical imbalances that are damaging to the brain and other cells in your body.

• Protect your head — Wear an approved helmet when playing sports. Preventing falls is also critical, as this is one of the major causes of head injuries in older adults.

• Take care of yourself — Get enough sleep, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation to help lower your risk factors.

For more tips and information about brain health, visit alzbc.org/brain-health

People with questions about dementia or memory loss can call the First Link Dementia Helpline at 1-800-936-6033. Information and support are available in Punjabi at 1-833-674-5003, and in Cantonese or Mandarin at 1-833-674-5007. Support in all languages is available Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus support in English is also available in the evenings until 8 p.m.

Brain Awareness Week is a great time to register for the annual IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s, happening this year on Sunday, May 3. The event celebrates and remembers the people in our lives who have been affected by dementia and raises funds to help the Alzheimer Society of B.C. change the future of the disease and those affected by it. Events will take place in 22 communities across the province. To find one near you, visit www.walkforalzheimers.ca.

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