March News – Brain & Memory Health

Your Brain & Your Memory

Be AWake to Memory Care

Grandmother running w grandson in a open field on a pretty, sunny day.

Your lifestyle habits affect your brain health.

Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors influence brain health. Some of these factors can affect your cognitive ability to drive, pay bills, take medicine and cook. You can’t do much about your genetics, but you CAN improve your environmental and lifestyle factors:

Address your health problems! Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your brain health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.

Falls or car accidents resulting in brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt and take steps to prevent falls.

Poor diet and lack of physical activity also contributes to poor brain health.

March is National Nutrition Month. Assess your eating habits. Stick with foods lower in fat. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Making these changes can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, like the Mediterranean and DASH diets help reduce high blood pressure and contribute to risk reduction.

Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Quit smoking! Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline because smoking contributes to clogged arteries which bring blood to the brain. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have never smoked.

Grandparents looking through raspberry bushes with wicker basket looking for berries.

Get more exercise and stop smoking to improve your brain and memory.

March is National Nutrition Month

Healthy Eating. Happy Brain.

How Nutrition Affects Your Brain

Proper, healthy nutrition can benefit the brain. A healthy diet can increase neurogenesis. What’s that? Neurogenesis is the process of increased production of new neurons. Our diet also affect synaptic plasticity. What’s that? Synaptic plasticity is the number of connections between neurons. The more connections between neurons and the better they communicate means we learn, think and memorize better.

An unhealthy diet rich in fats and sugars causes inflammation of the neurons and inhibits the formation of new neurons and results in reduced brain function and contributes to problems like depression.

So eat well for a healthy brain.

Seniors Need B12

Grandparents hugging grandson and playing outdoors in a field of grains on a pretty sunny day.

It’s National Nutrition Month. Eat well for a healthy brain.

B12 is needed for a healthy nervous system and cardiovascular system. Lack of B12 has also been associated with memory and cognitive problems. For seniors the body’s decreased ability to absorb B12 can quickly become a deficiency and require a B12 supplement. You may want to ask your doctor if B12 supplements are right for you. Be sure to include these foods high in B12 in your daily diet: shellfish, beef liver, fish, fortified cereals especially bran cereals, red meat, skim milk, cheese and eggs.

An Apple A Day…?

Yes! Besides being a good source of fiber, apples also contain potassium, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc…and Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, K, folate and niacin! There are no fats, sodium or cholesterol in apples. So the next time you need a snack, reach for an apple.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

They are fats that belong to the chemical class of poly-unsaturated fatty acids. There are three kinds: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are found in certain fish, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) present in plants like nuts and seeds.

Omega 3’s are essential nutrients. Omega 3’s improve the formation of neurons in our brains. We need to intake them in our diet because our body cannot make them. Omega 3’s have several brain health benefits specifically improving mental processes like thinking, reasoning, remembering and imagining.

Foods high in Omega-3’s are walnuts, flax seeds, fish oils, salmon, shellfish, chia seeds and soybeans. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil has 7.26 grams of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) Omega 3, more than seven times your daily recommendation.

TIP – Do you have special dietary needs?…Or need help shopping for and preparing nutritious meals.

People with diabetes, heart conditions and bone/joint conditions may need help learning what foods are best and choosing proper foods. AW can help you with dietary education and meal planning and preparation. Call us (314) 726-5600.

Be AW-ake to Memory Care: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST)

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy is a non-pharmaceutical, semi-structured group approach for patients with mild to moderate dementia which is currently being used extensively in the UK and has had good results in improving overall function. AW Health Care offers CST programs tailored to the needs of older adults with cognitive impairment.

Senior man working a wood block puzzle with therapist helping.

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy can help people with mild dementia.

“Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is an evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia.” CST was designed in England by Dr. Aimee Spector.”

Besides having mild to moderate impairment, participants should have the ability to communicate verbally in a group setting and tolerate group activity for 40 to 60 minutes. Each session has a theme. Groups share their thoughts and opinions, reminisce and complete cognitive tasks. Some of these activities include current affairs, childhood games, music, famous people, scenery and using money.

Therapy sessions are usually held two times per week for several weeks. Session therapy is provided by a trained, licensed occupational therapist and has a theme and basic structure:

  • Session introduction with orientation to place and time, a discussion of the weather and an opening song
  • Ball toss expression exercise related to the theme
  • Current affairs article reading and discussion
  • Session main activity to stimulate cognition
  • Session recap, introduction of next session theme and closing song


  • Improves cognitive function
  • Decreases depression
  • Improves quality of life
  • Improves mood and confidence
  • Increases concentration
  • Increases language skills

It is especially good to know that participation in CST groups is covered by medical insurance under outpatient therapy. Private pay is also available at an individual rate.

Contact AW Health Care to find out more about Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for older adults: (314) 330-7992

Senior woman thinking with open refrigerator door wondering why she needed a sweet pepper.

Memory Check! Get better organized.

Get Better Organized! If you put things in their proper places, they will be there when you look for them. Car keys, for example, should go back on the key holder, the drawer, your purse or wherever you decide the proper place for them. Always put them there and they will be there when you look for them. Ditto for other objects like your purse, your hat or your glasses. Life is a lot simpler when everything is in its place! Work harder to pay attention and concentrate. It’s easy to forget what you’re looking for when opening the fridge. Distractions cause you to forget, not your memory.

Sleep Healthy for a Healthy Brain

Sleep is vital to brain health, including cognitive function. Older people especially need to sleep 7 – 8 hours on average each night in order to maintain their brain health and overall physical health. Lack of sleep causes fatigue and stress. In older people this translates to fall risk and memory problems.

Senior woman sleeping peacefully.

Sleep helps the brain regenerate overnight.

You may feel that your memory is getting worse with age, but maybe it’s your ability to pay attention rather than your memory. A good memory requires the ability to pay attention. If you’re tired, you simply cannot pay attention as well as if you are well-rested.

It’s normal for sleep patterns to change as we age, but poor-quality sleep is not normal. Here are steps people can take to help to help get a better night’s sleep:

  • Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week. Regular wake time sets your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm). Sleeping in too much can impact your ability to fall and stay asleep the next night.
  • Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.
  • Go to bed when you are sleepy, not tired. If your brain is still busy thinking, write down the things you are worrying about, or try relaxation techniques like slow breathing or yoga.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, even during the day, can keep some people awake at night. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep, it might cause more nighttime bathroom trips.
  • Put away all electronics two hours before bedtime! That means cell phone, tablets and all electronic devices. These items make it harder for your brain to turn off and may interfere with your body clock.
  • Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients. Acetaminophen can relieve little aches and pains that keep you up at night. Sleeping pills, whether over-the-counter or prescription, however, sedate you and actually make your memory worse.
  • Avoid long daytime naps. If you must nap, limit sleep to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment that is cool, dark and quiet.


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