As a former personal trainer, I had a love-hate relationship with January. The gyms were always brim-full of people working on their New Year resolutions, and I wondered how many would make it into February or March.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I failed to meet my own fitness and lifestyle goals. I put on a few pounds, isolated, and disconnected from the hobbies and activities that brought me joy.
But all these things — exercise, hobbies, activities — are related to much more than how well our jeans fit. I now work in brain health as a program manager for the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Program, and my focus — and the example I want to set — is based on establishing a routine that I can maintain for the rest of my life.
Now I ask myself: At 47, how can I keep my heart healthy so my brain will maintain good cognitive abilities throughout my life? What can I do now to help me form a healthy 83-year-old brain in another 35-odd years?
So here’s what I’ve started:
- Physical activity: I’m walking to and from work again. I haven’t allowed myself to be scared away by a little drizzle or fog. If it’s icy, I walk in the underground tunnel on the state Capitol Mall during breaks and pass my co-workers with a gentle smile and hello.
- Obesity, hypertension, and diabetes: I’m trying to eat at least one veggie a day. Let’s be realistic: if you grew up as a farm girl in the Owyhees like me, then you grew up on meat and potatoes. But while it can be tough to commit to veggies, it will pay off for your body (and mind) in spades.
- Stress management: I’m learning to say “no” and keeping myself from getting overscheduled.
- Social interactions: I’m allowing myself to get together with one friend a week, so I still have time to spend with family and with myself.
- Sufficient sleep: I’m setting my phone down an hour before bedtime to allow my brain time to adjust and prepare for bed.
There are several other things I could do that allow me to take control of my brain health now, but I’m going to take it slow, build a new habit, and hopefully be able to take on new risk-reduction measures later.
Tiffany Robb is health program manager for the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Program in the Division of Public Health at DHW. A self-described compassionate extrovert, she’s had a diverse career that’s included personal training, business ownership and management, teaching, research, and project management. Tiffany finds working on brain health, Alzheimer’s, and dementia an honor and a tribute to family members who have been impacted by dementia.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening Idahoans' health, safety, and independence. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.
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