WEST ORANGE, NJ - March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.
There are many ways to protect our brains from injury, such as always wearing seat belt when in a car or a helmet when playing certain sports. It’s equally important to protect the health of our brains by staying physically and mentally active, especially as we age.
"Like muscles and bones, our brains need regular exercise and proper nutrition to remain fit and healthy,” said Monique Tremaine, Ph.D., director of psychology and neuropsychology at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (www.kessler-rehab.com). “The ability to think, reason, make decisions and recall information stored in our memory decline as we age. And while we cannot prevent aging, we can work to keep our minds sharp and our brains healthy.”
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (www.kessler-rehab.com), offers the following tips to help keep your brain healthy, active and wise.
- Eat a brain healthy diet. Include a variety of brain-friendly foods in your diet, such as fish, lean meats, fruits and whole grains. Antioxidants, found in blueberries and beans, have been shown to help improve memory and problem-solving ability.
- Keep moving. Physical exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain which helps improve the ability to process information, memory and overall cognitive functioning. Aim for 15-30 minutes of exercise daily – whither it’s walking, doing housework or yard work, or going to the gym.
- Get a Mental Workout. Crossword puzzles, anagrams and other word games, Sudoku and number games, jigsaw puzzles, board games, card games and even some video games can help build logic, memory and problem-solving skills, as well as thought processes. Reading newspapers, books, and magazines also help with memory, attention and critical thinking abilities.
- Do Something Different. Learn a new language, try your hand at knitting or painting, or take up a new musical instrument or find a class that interests you – all of which will challenge your brain and can foster creativity.
- Stay Connected: While technology helps to connect us to other people, the most important connection is still face-to-face. Being with people – talking, laughing and sharing thoughts and ideas -- is critically important to our brain health.
- Be involved. Get involved in community programs, join a club, volunteer your time or expertise or serve as a mentor. These activities help build social relationships, boost self-confidence, stimulate new learning and enhance one’s self-worth.
- Rest up. Lack of sleep can impact your brain’s ability to function clearly, and can result in reduced productivity, decreased reaction time, difficulty in paying attention, impaired judgment and poor memory. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Reduce Stress. Meditation, breathing exercises, even aromatherapy or massage, as well as physical activity has been shown to help improve attention and memory.
- Be safe. Protect your brain from injury. Wear a helmet when biking, rollerblading, skiing or playing contact sports, or even when doing certain work around the house, like cutting down trees. Practice safe driving habits -- wear a seat belt, never text while driving and observe the rules of the road. And finally, prevent falls by using stairs and ladders with care, removing clutter and using assistive devices when needed.
- Take care of yourself. Have an annual physical and work closely with your doctor to manage any health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking to minimize your risk of a stroke and other conditions that can impact brain function.
“Keeping our brains strong and active is essential to living a healthy, productive and enjoyable life,” said Dr. Tremaine. “There are many simple things we can do to try to keep our brains fit… we just need to remember to do them.”