Caregiving is an immensely stressful role. Between emotional stress and scheduling, as well as balancing personal and professional commitments, some days can make your head spin. For those who care for loved one’s with dementia, you know first hand how this disease affects their quality of life.As you watch symptoms worsen, it’s tough to witness. Not only do you worry about them and the changes in which they’re enduring, but you can’t help thinking, will this happen to me? Will the stresses associated with caregiving increase my risk of developing dementia as well?
Although there are some factors which are out of your control, there are also many ways to positively impact your future cognitive health. There are steps you can take to better protect yourself. Consider implementing the following tips into your current lifestyle and routine.
Five Tips to Maintain Your Brain Health as a Caregiver
Dementia is a common concern as we age. The rate of this disease are rising and caregivers have first-hand experience with the ways in which dementia impacts one’s life. Many caregivers worry when they experience mental fogginess. They often associate this brain fog with early signs of dementia.
For the most part, this lack of mental awareness is due to overwhelming levels of stress and having to continuously multitask. Although this brain fog can often be chalked down to high-stress levels, that does not mean that high-stress levels are ideal for your brain.
You should try and obtain assistance, either from family members or a caregiver so that you can share this demanding role. This additional help will allow you to reduce stress, protecting your overall immune system and brain. The more steps you take to prevent caregiver burnout, the better.
To prevent complications, there are some simple steps you can take. By implementing these five tips, you will not only improve and maintain your current cognitive health, but also protect your brain from future damage and complications.
Tip One: Focus on a heart-healthy lifestyle
Maintaining strong cardiovascular health is vital for optimal brain health. When you eat a heart-healthy diet and take part in physical exercise, you automatically take steps towards a lifestyle that supports your brain. When you suffer from conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or heart disease, you put your brain health at-risk.
This is not surprising considering our brains contain many blood vessels, which rely on a steady blood flow. If you suffer from poor heart health and poor circulation, your brain will not have access to the rich supply of oxygen and nutrients it requires. This will also help you reduce your risk of strokes.
Tip Two: Eat healthy, but don’t overcomplicate your diet
Nutritious food is essential for positive brain health, however, that does not mean that it needs to be a struggle each day. Simple meals which showcase whole foods are critical. When it comes to brain health, antioxidant-rich foods and omega-3 fatty acids are highly recommended.
Focus on a Mediterranean diet, high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and legumes. You should also eat moderate amounts of olive oil and unsaturated fats. Growing research has also emerged, focusing on the cognitive benefits of coconut oil.
Tip Three: Stay Socially Connected
Many of us have large social networks, but how much time do you spend interacting with these individuals? Researchers have found that the level of satisfaction and variety in your social life is more important than the size of your social network.
When you continuously take part in meaningful social interactions, you support positive mental health. All you need to do is stay socially engaged. To stimulate your mind, maintain an active role in the workplace, travel, volunteer, or join a wide variety of groups in your community.
Tip Four: Stimulate Your Mind
Although our brains do a lot for us without our conscious awareness, this organ benefits from mental stimulation. Challenging your brain may help keep connections stronger, protecting your cognitive health from potential decline.
Even simple activities, such as reading, writing, or crosswords can impact your brain’s ability to maintain brain power. You need to use your brain so challenge yourself. Learn a new language or an instrument. Life is all about learning and developing so never stop seeking new opportunities to enrich your learning experiences.
Tip Five: Reduce and Manage Stress Levels
It’s normal to feel stressed and worried once in a while, however, chronic stress can be detrimental to your brain and overall health. It is believed that higher levels of stress increase the rate of short-term memory loss. When you’re overwhelmed and anxious, a stress hormone known as cortisol is released.
These rising levels are believed to cause a gradual loss of synapse. When cortisol levels increase short-term, this allows us to feel more alert, responding to the challenges we’re facing. When cortisol spikes or prolonged or long-term, however, this is when serious complications can arise.
Try not to allow the daily stresses of life bring you down. Focus on your family, friends, and positive health. A great way to relieve stress is to spend more time outdoors. Since there are so many outdoor activities to participate in, you can stay physically active while enjoying beautiful, green scenery.
Make simple changes to protect your brain health. As you care for your brain by implementing the above tips, you will notice significant improvements in your overall health as well. You will be able to maintain a healthy weight, experience a more positive mood, and benefit from higher energy levels.
Enjoy the positive benefits of being the healthiest person you can be. Eat well, stay active physically and mentally, increase social interaction, and manage stress. You deserve a happy and healthy future so protect yourself today.
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