TIPS TO HELP RETAIN A ROBUST AND HEALTHY BRAIN
New York, January 17, 2007
Making lifestyle choices that can help maintain a robust and healthy brain is an important practice, say experts on brain health. Even if it wasn’t on the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, you can make a significant difference in the years ahead by developing good habits to positively impact physical and mental health. To assist in this resolution, MetLife offers two publications: a free brochure, entitled About…Healthy Aging, available by calling 1-800-MY-AGING (1-877-692-4464), andTen Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Brain, which was produced for the MetLife Mature Market Institute® (MMI) by Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist, who is author of Love Your Brain, a book published by the MMI.
More than 4.5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease, and 19 million have a family member who suffers from the disease or other form of dementia.
"Practically everyone in America knows someone who either has the disease or has a loved one afflicted with the disease," said Sandra Timmermann, director, MetLife Mature Market Institute. "About one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and the percentages rise dramatically with age; the disease affects up to fifty percent of people over the age of 85. This has a profound effect on families and society."
While no known cure for Alzheimer’s exists, according to Dr. Nussbaum, research suggests that simple steps can be taken that could help delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. In addition to this research, a recent poll commissioned by the American Society on Aging (ASA), with support from MetLife Foundation, says nearly nine out of ten Americans believe it is possible to improve brain fitness and that thinking abilities should be checked routinely.
Dr. Nussbaum offers the following suggestions to help improve brain fitness, memory, and general mental health:
- Don’t smoke. Smoking represents a major risk factor for stroke, not to mention cancer and heart disease.
- Follow your physician’s advice. A healthy relationship with your personal physician is critical to living a healthy life. Keep in mind, however, that only you are in charge of your body, so develop a proactive approach and take responsibility for those negative aspects of your life that may decrease your longevity potential.
- Increase Physical Activity. It is well understood that blood flow stimulated by exercise is good for the heart, lungs, and muscles—and it’s beneficial for the brain as well. People reluctant to commit to a regular program of physical activity may be more motivated if they understand how it helps them stay sharp mentally.
- Reduce the Overall Calories You Consume Daily. Pay close attention to how much you eat, and try not to go to bed stuffed. Also, think about what you’re consuming, eat healthy, and don’t feel guilty about "wasting" food—most people would be better off if they ate only 80 percent of what they ordinarily consume at every meal.
- Socialize and have fun. Try to stay engaged and enjoy life. Social interaction is an essential part of feeling and staying alert and young—and besides that, it’s enjoyable!
- Develop your spirituality. Evidence continues to emerge that prayer, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques are health-promoting activities, and have neurophysiological benefits. At the very least, they help combat the stresses of life and focus on the challenges ahead.
- Cross-Train Your Brain. Brain fitness depends on combining a variety of activities—such as playing music, word games and physical activity—that differ in frequency, intensity and variety. A single activity, no matter how challenging, is not sufficient to sustain the kind of mental acuity that virtually everyone can achieve. Although activities such as reading and doing crossword puzzles are good on their own, they offer only partial benefits, unless they are part of a comprehensive program for long-term brain health.
- Maintain your role and sense of purpose. Retirement means many things, but it doesn’t have to mean losing who you are. It can also represent an opportunity to find new ways to participate in society, and, possibly, discover even greater relevance.
- Start saving for the future now. Research suggests that having some money late in life correlates with better health. If you’re unsure where to begin to save for the future, consider retaining a financial planner. You’re never too young or too old to begin saving.
- Grow Your Social Network. Develop hobbies, promote lifelong pursuits, and grow a social network of meaningful relationships. Research indicates that individuals who live in isolation have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who remain integrated in society. Lifelong community involvement, particularly activities with friends, family, and partners, is an investment in brain health.
The MetLife Mature Market Institute is MetLife’s information and policy resource center on issues related to aging, retirement, long-term care and the mature market. Staffed by gerontologists, the Institute provides research, training and education, consultation and information to support MetLife, its corporate customers and business partners. MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the U.S. and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.
MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 by MetLife, to carry on its long-standing tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation has been involved in a variety of aging-related initiatives addressing issues of caregiving, intergenerational activities, mental fitness, health and wellness programs and civic involvement. Since 1986, the Foundation has supported research on Alzheimer’s disease through its Awards for Medical Research program and has contributed more than $10.5 million to efforts to find a cure. More information about the Foundation is available at www.metlife.org.