The brain is the body’s control tower. It controls motor function, balance, and our body’s ability to interpret information that’s sent to the brain by the ears, eyes and other sensory organs.

Numerous scientific advances have begun to challenge the idea that dementia and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are inevitable with age.

Though this seems like a very dismal forecast, there are steps that a person can take to preserve brain function and introduce healthy brain interventions to last a lifetime.

You don’t have to make big changes to make a difference. In fact, simple changes in what you do every day may reduce your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The Cognitive Brain Health Program at St. Barnabas Health System was developed by world-renowned neurosurgeon, nutritional expert and concussion specialist Dr. Joseph Maroon, and addresses four major areas of brain health.

These areas include diet, exercise, stress and environment.

Researchers know that Alzheimer’s develops over time and can be influenced by lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, nutrition, sleep and physical activity.

By focusing on nutrition, physical exercise, stress relief and reducing brain toxins we can take control of our health.

Dr. Maroon  has created a program that’s based on the recent science of Epigenetics which explains that our fate isn’t necessarily locked in place because of our genes, but instead, the choices we make to take control of our health.

“It’s not the number of years in your life but the quality of your life in your years that counts,” Dr. Maroon said.

Karen Tabacchi, Senior Vice President for Clinical Services will be coordinating the Cognitive Brain Health Program here at St. Barnabas while Dr. Maroon and Jeff Bost, his neurosurgical physician assistant will oversee the development of the community-based health initiative.

Following are some tips to help keep you on track as you work toward a healthier, more active mind:

Get some rest

Sleep is extremely important to people of all ages. It plays a pivotal role in helping you consolidate your memories so that you can recall hem when needed. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Be social

It’s good to be a social butterfly, not only for maintaining relationships, but also for your memory. Social interaction helps fend of depression and stress, which can both contribute to memory loss. When invited for lunch or to attend an event, go! Your brain will thank you.

Stay Active

Keep your brain in shape through mentally stimulating activities. This could help keep memory loss at bay. Activities such as crossword puzzles, couples dancing, reading or trying out new activities can help in keeping your memory sharp.

Eat right

A healthy diet is as good for your brain as it is your body! A diet that’s filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains is recommended. Don’t forget to incorporate low-fat protein sources such as fish and lean meat as well. But nutrition isn’t just about food; what you drink matters, too. Remember to stay hydrated and to limit your alcohol intake to help avoid unwanted confusion or memory loss.

Get focused

More times than not, we’re multitasking, which can lead to forgetfulness. In an effort to avoid misplacing something or simply forgetting it altogether, set aside a specific spot to place your keys, wallet and other important objects. Jot down notes in a special planner that you keep with you at all times so that you can refer to it when necessary. Try your best to limit distractions so that you can focus on one task at a time in order to recall that information at a later date.

For more information on the Cognitive Brain Health Program, call Michele Snyder at St. Barnabas Medical Center – 724-443-7231.

The program includes an easy to follow, self-guided booklet on steps to a brain healthy lifestyle, as well as vitamins and supplements to help you achieve your goals.   Books by Dr. Maroon are also for sale.

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