by Elena Dolgonos, M.D.; Scripps Coastal Medical Center, Encinitas

Resolutions for a Healthier You at Any Age

scripps_elenaCheck out these effective strategies for boosting your brain and body so you can stay stronger and smarter longer. While growing older affects nearly every part of you, aging well doesn’t have to be an oxymoron.

Eat a balanced diet. Establish a diet that emphasizes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and limits sugar, saturated fat, and alcohol.

Keep moving. Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart pumping, strengthens both your body and your brain. As we age, the hippocampus – the brain region that plays a vital role in verbal memory and learning – shrinks, leading to memory impairment. The good news is that cardio exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus. Standard recommendations advise 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which could include walking, swimming, or tennis. If cleaning house makes you break out in a light sweat, that counts as moderate activity.

Take dance lessons. A 21-year study of individuals 75 and older found that frequent dancing was one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and help prevent Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 2003 study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Have music in your life. Playing an instrument can help strengthen memory, verbal fluency, problem-solving abilities, and how you process information, while listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain, according to researchers at John Hopkins.

Learn new skills. The activities that have the most impact on your brain health are those that stretch you, requiring you to work beyond what is easy. Try learning a new language, studying a new area of interest, or taking up a hobby.

Forget multitasking. Doing one thing at a time, not everything at once, strengthens higher-order reasoning and the ability to understand and apply new information.

Get enough sleep. Not sleeping enough may lead to a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as impaired memory. The ideal amount varies per person, but make sure you feel well-rested in the morning.

Establish a relationship with your primary care provider. Whether you see an internal medicine or family medicine doctor, it’s important to have a primary care physician who can help you stay healthy with preventive measures and regain health during an illness.

Elena Dolgonos, M.D., is a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Encinitas. Dr. Dolgonos has expertise in a wide array of primary care services, including women’s health, pediatrics, adolescent health, and geriatrics. When not seeing patients, she enjoys figure skating, traveling, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

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