Ask the Expert: Encouraging Brain Health for Seniors

Lynn Northrop, PhD, a clinical psychologist affiliated with Sharp HealthCare, answers important questions about brain health in seniors.

What can I do to maintain a healthy brain?
To begin with, have a healthy diet. Fortunately, it's not complicated, or it's not any new sort of diet we're talking about. A heart-healthy diet is the same sort of diet that keeps the brain healthy. Also, to maintain the health of your brain, you want to remain socially active and you want to stay connected to the people that have been important in your life and maybe even build new connections.You want to remain active in general. Engaging in leisure activities, especially those that combine physical and mental and social activities is going to help you maintain a healthy brain.

What are neurobics?
Neurobics just refers to adding even very small novel activities into your life. For example, if you've always worn your watch on your left wrist, move it to your right wrist. Doing things differently, challenging the brain in even small ways helps to maintain brain health.

Is it possible to increase brain health at a later age?
You've heard the old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Well guess what, you can teach an old dog new tricks. And if you do teach the old dog new tricks, then the old dog is going to be healthier. So there's every reason to be optimistic and to stay engaged to do all of the things that are so often talked about in terms of maintaining physical health and those same things will help you with your mental health as well.

Don't brain cells just die with age?
We used to think that more and more brain cells die as you age so you're sort of destined to have fewer when you're old than when you're young, but the truth is that if you use your brain, you will lose fewer brain cells, and if you use your brain in the right way, you actually build new brain cells and build connections between brain cells.

If you want more information about memory and aging or if you're concerned about your own memory or the memory of a senior in your life, then it's time to get more information and ask for help, and you can do that by calling 1-800-82-SHARP. They can direct you to education and assessment and intervention resources within Sharp HealthCare.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.