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Brain Healthy Behaviors

In March 2023, I attended the American Society on Aging conference in Atlanta. Sanjay Gupta, MD was one of the keynote speakers, talking about his book, Keep Sharp. In addition, AARP was one of the sponsors at the meeting, and I came home with a neat postcard that summarized “6 Pillars of Brain Health.” These 6 pillars, along with videos about each one, are available on the AARP website. Here is a quick overview. These 6 Pillars are something we should all pay attention to, to keep our brains healthy as we age.

#1 Be social. Don’t let yourself become isolated; make a point to reach out to friends and family.

#2 Engage your brain. Try using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth, for example. Take a dance class.

#3 Manage stress. Down-time is important.

#4 Ongoing exercise. Stay active and move throughout the day; every step counts! I heard someone give the following advice a while back: Walk your dog every day…even if you don’t have a dog.

#5 Restorative sleep. For persons age 65 and older, 7 to 8 hours a day of sleep is recommended (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Sleep Foundation)

#6 Eat right. Nothing can substitute for nutritious, heart healthy foods that include fish, vegetables, and fruits.

One final note on brain health – you knew I had to bring in medication use, right? Sometimes medications can cause or contribute to adverse effects that impact brain health. Therefore, it always is important to keep medications in mind (pardon the pun) if you or a loved one experience confusion, decreased memory, sudden changes in mood or behavior, or other symptoms that might signal an adverse drug reaction. Regular medication reviews are essential to catch problems early and make sure you are not taking medicines that can negatively impact brain function in the short- or long-term. Don’t forget that over-the-counter products and dietary supplements also can cause or contribute to side effects that impact cognition.

Written by Hedva Barenholtz Levy, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP


 This material is intended to encourage discussion with your health care provider.  It is informational only and does not replace the guidance of your health care team.