MidLife for me means a lot of changes take place with my body both physically and mentally. Whilst I am all about good health and keeping the body in shape, I am a firm believer in “beauty from the inside out”. This means that I understand and respect that not every woman is physically built the same and sometimes it take a lot more work than we want to keep ourselves slim and in shape, but I HATE trying to make society happy by what I physically look like. I’m not going to bust my ass to make myself hour-glass shaped just to make myself more appealing to others. I’ve been there, done that and high school is over. It’s midlife time ladies, and this part of my life has opened my eyes more to shaping my mental health than physical.
Now I’m not saying to let your body just lay on the pounds, but if you’re going to put any energy forth in yourself the next year, focus on your mental health more than trying to make yourself look twenty-one again. I’ve discovered that what really matters to me more, is my happiness inside … my mental health. That means, keeping my brain in shape too.
Of course, everyone knows aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping and lifting weights keeps muscles strong. But when it comes to keeping the brain healthy, most people are unsure what to do. So I’ve been researching on ways to keep my mental clarity alive. As you age, brain health and maintaining memory functions becomes a top concern. Turns out, these issues may begin sooner than you think.
“We tend to think about memory decline as an older person’s issue, but that’s not the case at all,” says Dr. Aimee Gould Shunney, a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and family medicine. “There was a study published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal that examined cognitive function in people age 45 to 70. The researchers did not expect it, but they found evidence of cognitive decline in the 45-year-old participants as well as the older participants.”
She notes there are two basic pathological processes that cause degeneration of the brain: oxidative stress and inflammation. Basically, the standard American diet and lifestyle contribute to those processes. So who is this really an issue for? Men and women of all ages.
No matter your age, you can take charge of your brain health by following these smart steps from Dr. Shunney
“A Mediterranean-type diet that focuses on whole foods, good fats and foods high in antioxidants is a great place to start,” says Dr. Shunney.
She encourages her patients to focus on getting omega-3 fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds. She also recommends increasing fruits (especially berries) and beans (they’re packed with antioxidants). What’s more, research shows a little cocoa, coffee and red wine can act as antioxidants and are beneficial in low to moderate amounts.
In addition to a quality multivitamin, Dr. Shunney recommends an omega-3 supplement. “Getting enough omega-3s is one of the most important measures we can take,” she says. “DHA is the dominant omega-3 in the brain. Just like we need to make sure babies have enough DHA to grow their brain, we need to make sure older people get enough DHA to keep their brains healthy.”
She suggests Omega Memory by Nordic Naturals. It’s a DHA-dominant omega-3 formula that also includes other brain healthy ingredients: curcumin, phosphatidylcholine and huperzine A. Learn more at www.nordicnaturals.com.
Poor sleep is a risk factor for cognitive decline. “Studies show both sleep deprivation and sleeping too much impact cognitive performance,” Dr. Shunney says. “A good goal is to go to bed around the same time each night, sleep for 7-8 hours, and get up around the same time every morning.”
Can’t sleep well? Try reading some of my sleep tips and see if those help.
“I recommend anything that keeps your mind working,” says Dr. Shunney. “Activities that require things to be arranged or puzzles that have to be put together. Crossword puzzles, word games and board games are all great.”
She also notes some activities to avoid: “It’s important to limit certain activities. The constant scanning of social media and newsfeeds eliminates creativity and keeps us on edge. Limit the time you spend doing that and instead do things that cause you to explore and think and put ideas together on your own.”
I find this especially important because at this point in my life, I want to surround myself in positivity. Positive thinkers, inspirational creativity, and motivational people keep me and my mental health on a more happy path. Social media tends to bring out the worst in people and media thrives off brainwashing us with negative stories.
“Social isolation has been linked with cognitive decline,” says Dr. Shunney. “In one study, people who were lonely experienced cognitive decline at a 20 percent faster rate than people who were not lonely.”
Make time to take a foreign language class, join a Toastmaster’s Club, take a watercolor class – anything that connects you regularly to other people.
I actually run a MeetUp organization for midlife inspirational women in my area. If you are looking for more socialization and activities, check out your local MeetUps.