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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Keep your brain healthy by working healthy lifestyle habits into your routine.

You’ve heard the usual advice for staying healthy: Eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise. But there’s another piece you may not be thinking of — keeping your brain sharp. Protecting brain health as you age is easier than you think. It starts with a little play.

It’s (mostly) fun and games

Training your brain does more than just build smarts. Research suggests that brain-training activities can lower your risk of dementia. “Brain training doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Cybele Pacheco, MD, a Geisinger family medicine physician. “The best way to boost your brain is to do something that challenges your mind every day.”

To challenge your brain, start small. Try a game or two to boost those mental muscles. Not sure where to begin? Consider a few memory-improving games, like:

  • Word puzzles
  • Bingo
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Trivia
  • Chess and checkers
  • Card games
  • Sudoku
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Brain game apps

Besides games, try some other activities that can help you stay sharp, like:

  • Reading
  • Crafting
  • Taking a class

These games and activities do more than just sharpen your mental acuity. Many encourage socialization. Ask a friend, neighbor or loved one to join in the fun.

“Many seniors tend to be isolated, which is sometimes followed by depression,” says Dr. Pacheco. “Games and other activities can encourage socialization and foster a sense of belonging.”

Flex those muscles

Just like your physical body needs maintenance (think “use it or lose it”), physical exercise also benefits your brain. 

Exercise helps your brain in different ways. It increases your heart rate, which pumps more blood and oxygen to the brain. It also fosters the release of certain hormones that help brain cells grow and regenerate. And it releases another hormone, endorphins, which boost your mood. 

Looking to start a new exercise routine? “Ask your healthcare provider about starting an exercise program,” says Dr. Pacheco. “They’ll help you find the best activities for your comfort and skill level.”

Healthy diet, healthier brain

To keep yourself well, you need to eat well, too. That doesn’t mean you have to give up the food you love. By adding in a few healthy ingredients, you can help your body and your brain. Stock up on these nutrient-rich foods to feel your best:

  • Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines for omega-3s
  • Dark chocolate for a delicious dose of antioxidants
  • Whole grains, nuts and seeds for a dose of vitamin E
  • Berries to reduce inflammation 

For even better brain health, consider cutting sugary drinks and processed foods from your diet.

The brain-body connection

Beyond remembering someone’s name or where you left your keys, your brain plays a big role in keeping you happy. 

“There’s much more to health than just physical health,” says Dr. Pacheco. “As you get older, it’s important to stay mentally and socially active, too.”

There are countless ways to keep your mind active to boost your mental health:

  • Take adult education classes
  • Read a challenging book or, even better, join a book club
  • Join group fitness classes 
  • Learn a new skill
  • Stay social and engage others in conversation
  • Improve your vocabulary by learning new words
  • Maintain a daily routine with physically and mentally stimulating activities
  • Take a daily 30-minute walk
  • Learn about a new sport and watch games in person or on TV
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress — like yoga, massage or meditation

Continue living independently

By keeping your mind sharp, you may be able to live independently longer. If you reached a point where you need a little extra assistance at home, programs like LIFE Geisinger can help. This program offers a full range of care resources to adults 55 and older. 

Live life to the fullest

With aging come changes to your body and mind, and it’s all a normal part of life. Even if you’re not good at your new activities at first, the key is to give yourself grace. By adding new interests and making changes to your daily routine, you can stay sharp as a tack at every age.

Next steps: 

Learn more about LIFE Geisinger
See how LIFE Geisinger helps Joan Marie Roth live her best life
Meet Cybele Pacheco, MD


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