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Aged Care Issues: Slowing the Onset of Dementia By Making Simple Lifestyle Changes (Part 3)

Part 3: Hydration, Relaxation and More

In the first installment of this aged care information series on slowing the onset of dementia, we discussed how research has shown that proper diet and nutrition are key components to good cognitive health. The second part in the series focused on incorporating exercise as a preventative measure.

In this third and final installment in this series, we look at some additional proven, yet simple methods for keeping cognitive function at its best. We will look at:

1)    Hydration: Consuming adequate fluids
2)    Relaxation through yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices
3)    Methods for exercising the brain

Hydration
You probably already know that drinking plenty of water is important for many bodily functions, but you may not realize how important it is for optimal brain health and function.

Water is required in order for your neurons to transmit their chemical signals. Water also keeps your brain “cool” – a dehydrated brain can overheat, causing a decline in cognitive function and even damage.

Dehydration may impair long-term memory recall and the function of your short-term memory. It may also make it difficult to focus and reduce your ability to perform cognitive tasks such as arithmetic.

Tip: Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you pick up that glass of water. By the time you feel thirsty, you might have lost up to 2% of your body weight from water loss, resulting in a whopping 10% decline in your cognitive function.

Relaxation
Anxiety can speed the onset of dementia in an aged care setting. A deliberate daily deep relaxation program including yoga, meditation, massage, or just deep breathing can help to keep the mind relaxed and functioning optimally.

Seek out DVDs, online programs, community classes, or elderly care centre courses in yoga, meditation and mindfulness to incorporate these practices into your routine.

Use It or Lose It – Brain Exercises
Just like you exercise your body, you also need to exercise your brain. The “use it or lose it” expression definitely applies to brain function.

When our minds are active and challenged, our neurons keep connecting with each other and transmitting signals through our brain. Not using your mind in a challenging way results in fewer brain chemicals being produced, and the erosion of the connections in our brain.

The following activities can encourage the maintenance of cognitive function:
-    Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word searches
-    Painting or drawing
-    Chess, Bridge or Solitaire

Read more about how hydration, relaxation and regular brain exercises can prevent or delay the onset of dementia at Fight Dementia and Your Brain Matters.
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