Mental health is declining in America and around the world. As a consequence of the increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of senile dementia, it is likely that this disabling condition will affect you or someone in your family.
Estimates from mental health experts vary, but most predict a large increase in the number of cases during the next decade. This is due to an aging population as well as a higher percentage of elderly people becoming affected by dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease can be a devastating disease process that takes away the productivity and vitality of the affected patients as well as being exhausting and depressing for family members. The care for a patient with Alzheimer’s or similar form of dementia can quickly drain life savings.
There is wide debate among experts as to the actual causes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of senile dementia. Although some hereditary and genetic links have been found, certain environmental and health-related factors play a role as well. For example, diabetes and heart disease are linked to a greater chance of developing the disorder, as are diet and exposure to certain environmental elements.
One thing that is clear is that mental health is closely linked to overall health. Taking steps to improve your general health will positively impact your mental health, and vice versa.
Here are some recommendations that are generally agreed upon by mental health experts to improve your cognitive function today as well as decrease the chances that you will have dementia as you age:
1. Choose foods that contribute to better health. That means lower sodium, less fat-laden foods, lower total calorie consumption and less processed foods. This is generally achieved by eating at home more often, preparing your own foods, staying out of the middle aisles when grocery shopping, and choosing healthier alternatives when eating out. Fast foods, many restaurant choices and ready-to-eat foods are generally loaded with sodium, fats, (trans-fats being the worst) and additives that will hasten health deterioration.
2. Stay active. Moderate exercise helps your body and your brain. Starting an exercise routine can be difficult, particularly if you are not exercising now. Start from where you are and gradually build up strength, flexibility and endurance.
3. Have a health check-up and commit to staying healthy. obesity, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol can contribute significantly to mental health issues. Ignoring your health will not improve your odds.
4. Socialize. People that stay socially active have greater chances of enjoying vibrant mental health than those that allow themselves to become withdrawn or reclusive.
5. Exercise your brain. Sure, doing crosswords counts, if your main objective is to be able to recall obscure three- and four-letter words when you’re 90. What’s more important, knowing every kind of antelope that can be spelled with four letters, or being able to recall the names of your neighbors? Doing things such as making new address lists, writing notes and letters to friends, visiting over the phone and in person, writing recipe books for your children and other creative pursuits that involve regular daily activities help more.
6. Improve your sleep. Restless nights and poor sleep habits are very damaging to brain health. Sleep is one of the most important elements to good health, especially mental health. Using medication to induce sleep does help you get more rest at times, but is not the same as healthy normal sleep.
7. Relax, find your joy. Are we having fun, yet? Having fun is an often-neglected part of a mental and general health improvement plan. Having fun is healthy. Laughter stimulates the exuberant release of an incredible amount of beneficial neuro-chemicals in your brain that help you brain work better.
Murfreesboro Post Bonus Tip. (We always try to deliver more than expected!) Keep up with the local news and events by reading the Murfreesboro Post. Reading the local newspaper can be a great help to keeping your mental skills sharp. It is engaging to read about local people, places you know, new ideas, health and wellness suggestions and community opportunities.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.