Many Seniors Wellness websites are going to concern themselves with advocacy for Senior Citizens needs, and are going to indicate to various governing bodies that the Senior Wellness constituency has some requirements for services.
Other Senior Wellness sites are going to work to provide companionship and an invigorating environment to Senior Citizens.
This page will also give us, as I am 61, a sense of what we can do individually to keep ourselves alive and vibrant.
The first thing I want to advocate for is physical exercise. It is imperative for health, and has tremendous importance to our brains, which is where alzheimers exists or doesn't exist.
Not too many years ago, some folks discovered some interesting capacities of the human brain called neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons. We grow them daily, and they can migrate to various brain circuitry if we challenge them with a novel learning experience.
My reading of the research, which is not comprehensive, indicates that the brain needs to have a challenging learning experience regularly to cement those new neurons into existing circuits, otherwise the brain pares them to save energy.
(In fact, any unused circuit will be pared by the brain, so keep them firing).
The learning required for a novel learning experience is the kind of learning involved in learning a new musical instrument or a new language.
That means I cannot pick up a new counseling book to read because my brain already knows counseling. I need to take up piano, in order to challenge those neurons.
Sudoku and crosswords do not challenge the brain the way it needs to be challenged either, unless they have an increasing challenge level built into them.
When those new neurons are routinely challenged they do get included into existing neuronal circuits where I can then enhance the second newly discovered brain capacity, called neuroplasticity, which means that neurons connect to and link with other neurons.
Those linkages, if they are used frequently enough to be kept, become what we call cognitive reserve, which my brain can use to reroute signals around trouble spots, like the emergence of plaques in the brain.
A leading reseacher in the neuroplasticity field is Michael Merzinich,Ph.D. creator of the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which has just been studied extensively in the IMPACT study published in April of 2009.
The IMPACT study shows that the use of the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program makes a difference in our Senior Wellness.
Below is a video which speaks to what the researchers discovered.
Please click on the little white triangle to play the video.
The link above, to Brainfit For Life, by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D, includes the following information from the introduction, which I think is very important to Senior Wellness.
"A bigger driver for writing this book is to be a smallvoice in promoting healthy living now, so that you canexperience a bigger, stronger and faster brain as you age.Everyone knows that the lifestyle factors you choose have aneffect on your health. But most people just think of their hearthealth. We are here to tell you that many of those samedecisions have an effect on your brain as well. And we’re notjust talking about losing your mind as you age, but your brainperformance today. Unfortunately, the behaviors so manypeople indulge in more and more in today’s world are notsetting them up for a bright mental future. This applies to kids,middle aged, and older adults."
... Currently 4.5 million individuals suffer fromAlzheimer’s disease. Due to an aging baby-boomer population,this number is expected to jump to 16 million by 2020 in theUnited States alone. Additionally, depression and anxietydisorders account for one of the largest burdens on quality oflife for patients and loved ones. Finally, the rates of diabetes,heart disease and obesity are staggering and beginning to gain afoothold in children. There are currently no ‘treatments’ thatcure or reverse the process of these diseases."
The Pillars of Brain Fitness for Senior Wellness
Evans and Burghardt write about what they, and other writers call, the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, which could include computerized brain fitness tools.
I like the way Evans and Burghardt speak to these various life style decisions that we can make.
The Brainfit for Life book gives me guidelines rather than dictums. For example, they say that physical activity is ok, and as I get better at the physical activity I am already doing, then I can move to physical exercise, up to and including tossing around big barbells and getting all sweaty.
But I do not have to do that barbell thing if I don't want, to but I can still benefit my brain by doing something that gets my breathing going deeply enough that it is difficult to talk and execise.
I really like the routine that Scott and Angie Tousignant have put together, and if you click on that link, and scroll down the page you land on, you will see a couple in their 80's doing the Tousignant exercise routine.
Physical exercise is the most important part of brain fitness for Senior Wellness.
The next pillar of brain fitness that Evans and Burghardt cover is nutrition, and that truly means lots of fruit and vegetables. (I tried homemade tomato juice the other day, and it was good. Grosses out the kids too. Lots of that good prostate lycopene phytochemical also).
Senior Wellness nutrition needs to include not only vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and glyconutrients molecules, but also omega 3 fatty acid.
The membranes of neurons are composed mostly of omega 3 fatty acid, which needs to be replenished daily, or those membranes get brittle and do not communicate very well. Poor neuronal communication translates into forgetfulness and poor word recall at best.
The best source of omega 3 fatty acid is fish, which means you have to monitor your intake for mercury pollution. Personally, I am not going to eat food that has heavy metal in it, when I can get a supplement that has the heavy metal refined from from it. Please note what Evans and Burghardt tell you about your omega 3 fatty acid supplement. Stress management is an important component of Senior Wellness. Stress hormones kill those new neurons, as does booze and environmental toxins.
Those things are manageable, particularly stress. Deep breathing techniques are the best antidote, but if you are like most of my clients, you will nod sagely, and go back to breathing very shallowly, which actually brings fear biochemistry, so I teach lots of my anger management clients how to do HeartMath and have been doing that for about eight years.
Imagine my surprise earlier this year when the Sharp Brains folks called the HeartMath tools the best stress management tool on the market. If you have kids taking tests like the ACT, or the SAT, or you are trying out for the Senior Golf Tour, HeartMath needs to be part of your tool kit.
Heartmath also opens the higher perceptual centers in my brain. Relaxation on any given heart beat is a good thing.
Earlier I mentioned Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. and his Posit Science Brain Fitness program as a tool that could supply a novel learning experience for us if we are not interested in learning a new language or taking up an instrument.
Evans and Burghardt site research about another kind of computerized brain fitness program called the dual n back task, which increased IQ.
Who says an old dog cannot learn a new trick?
I have used the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro program for a year now, and while I have not taken an IQ test, I do know that my attention and short term memory are much better.
Short term memory helps me remember where my glasses are.
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