Dr. Jackie Quisno
 
Aging is inevitable. While the birthdays keep coming, we do not have to stand idle. It took you several years to learn to Be Smart, so here are some tips on how to stay smart.

1. Be physically active.
Exercise increases blood flow to your brain and doesn't necessarily require a gym membership or equipment. Walking is safe, cheap and effective. The recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking). Walking with a buddy can be a great way to feed your brain and add in social activity.

2. Feed your brain fish.
People who eat cold-water fish once a week have a 60 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease/ dementia. If you aren't a fan of seafood, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in flaxseed, walnuts, kale and sprouts. Omega-3 can be taken as a supplement at 500 mg per day.

3. Be organized.
A cluttered space can create chaos for your mind. Simplify your surroundings. Making notes and using a calendar can help you prioritize your time and accomplish more tasks.

4. Be social.
Maintain relationships with family and friends and build new relationships. Social ties help battle depression and stress, both of which can make memory issues more problematic. Interacting with others will stimulate the area in your brain that helps with planning and decisionmaking.

5. Be rested.
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Often as we get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain good sleep patterns. A brief nap in the afternoon can help recharge your brain.

6. Be tobacco free.
Smoking raises the risk of vascular events in your brain that could lead to stroke. Smoking also decreases oxygen delivery and blood flow in the brain.

7. Manage chronic health conditions.
Diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and chronic lung disease can affect how our brains receive nutrients and oxygen. Discuss treatment goals with your doctor, as well as potential side effects of medications. Depression can have a huge impact on our overall health and mental well-being.

8. Be mentally active.
Brain exercise is important to maintain cognitive abilities. While games such as Scrabble and sudoku offer some stimulation, novel stimulation is more beneficial. Learning a new language, cooking a new recipe or even driving a different route to the store can stimulate your brain function more effectively. Visiting with others is another common way to flex our brain muscle.

Aging gracefully by maintaining cognition is priceless to maintaining our independence as we get older. Exercise, both mental and physical, is key.


 
Jackie Quisno, M.D., is a family physician and the associate director of the UND Center for Family Medicine. Although her practice focuses on women's health and obstetrics, she treats patients of all ages.