Brain Health

The National Institute on Aging defines brain health as “the ability to remember, learn, play, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind.”  Currently, 1.1 Million Canadians are directly or indirectly affected by dementia, and 25,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  This section will provide more information about the brain and how it changes with age and will explore steps that you can take to maintain a healthy brain.  It will also explore the impact that work and stress can have on your brain health, and help you understand what steps you can take to stay healthy at work.

Coping with Uncertainty

As the COVID-19 situation is evolving, we are learning more every day but there is still so much that is unknown. It’s natural for us to feel anxious, fearful, stressed or overwhelmed when we are surrounded by uncertainty. We need to acknowledge that these kinds of feelings are valid but can take a toll on our mental health and wellbeing. It is important that we find ways to cope with these emotions in order to get through these trying times as best we can. Here are some tips and resources on how to manage our levels of stress and anxiety, and safeguard our mental health.

Manage your levels of stress and anxiety, and safeguard your mental health with these tips:

  • Fight Fear with Facts. Get your data from trusted sources and know who to call for help. 
  • Have a Plan. Focus on what you can control and be prepared.
  • Set Boundaries. Limit your exposure to media and keep routine and structure to maintain balance.
  • Connect and Communicate. Taking care of yourself is important so you can help take care of others. Connect with family and friends.
  • Follow guidance. Your best form of protection is listening to advice from public health authorities.
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Mind over Matter: how mindfulness can improve your life

The concept of mindfulness once associated with Buddhism, The Beatles and transcendental meditation. Today, mindfulness is a serious topic of research in the medical community, as a mounting body of evidence demonstrates that it can have a powerful effect on healthy living. This includes physical health as well as mental health. From helping people face the challenges of stress reduction to treating individuals with serious mental health issues, mindfulness is proving to be one of the most adaptive remedies for a range of wellness issues. But what is mindfulness, and how does it work?

Benefits of mindfulness

  • Stress management - numerous studies point to meditation to reduce anxiety and increase positive affect.
  • Reduced anxiety – research shows that meditation contributes to faster recovery after a negative provocation.
  • Reduced symptoms of depression – it has been shown to reduce symptoms and recurrence rates in people suffering from depression.
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Retaining your independence – Healthy Aging Formula for Seniors

It is common knowledge that life expectancy in Canada is increasing. Living long however is most desirable when it is accompanied by living well and healthy. According to statistics gathered in Toronto, 74% of seniors describe their general health is good, very good, or excellent, and 93% say that their mental health is good, very good or excellent. And yet, diabetes, dementia, and injuries resulting in emergency visits or hospitalizations are on the rise among those 65 and older (Healthy Aging in Toronto, 2017). Healthy, or successful aging is an outcome of many factors. Some of those factors are beyond our reach, but there is a path you can follow. It is never too late to adopt healthy behaviour or discard unhealthy ones, become more socially engaged, or reap benefits from more supportive environments. Let’s see the formula for healthy aging!

The Five Factors of Healthy Aging

1) Social Connectedness
2) Physical activities
3) Healthy eating for mature bodies
4) Injury prevention
5) Putting down risky habits

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How mindfulness works

Mindfulness is a state that involves the self-regulation of attention, allowing you to focus on the present moment and experience thoughts and sensations objectively, with curiosity, openness and acceptance, with the ultimate goal of controlling your reaction to those thoughts and sensations. The more you practice mindfulness, the better it works, and the greater the benefits.

Principles of good mindfulness practice

  • Paying attention to the moment-to-moment details of experience
  • Paying particular attention to the body and one’s experience of it
  • Recognizing the experience of mind and not getting caught in memories of the past or plans for the future
  • Trying neither too much nor too little
  • Letting go of distractions and paying attention to the present moment
  • Noticing one's experience without judging it
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Benefits of Practicing Yoga

Stress is a killer. It can cause a variety of musculo-skeletal disorders, from back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome to shoulder and neck tension. It can cause eye strain, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbances and headaches, and chronic stress is the leading cause of anxiety and depression.

Increasingly, medical researchers are studying ways to cope with stress that do not involve medical or pharmacological intervention, and one of these remedies is yoga. Research shows that practicing yoga has the power to beat stress, along with a myriad of health concerns that are caused by stress.

Yoga can:

  • Relieve stress
  • Treat musculo-skeletal disorders, from back pain to neck tension
  • Relax the body and mind
  • Fight pain
  • Relieve tension and reduce the risk of injury
  • Make you a better communicator
  • Promote the act of self-compassion
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Active Aging and Acting Your Age

Have you ever wondered how some people manage to look ageless? Well into their 80s, they have a youthfulness that belies their age, and still participate in activities that younger adults enjoy. There are many factors affecting how we age, including financial security, but aging well, without mental and physical stress on our bodies, is within the reach of us all. Through a few simple daily practices and preventive measures, we can experience our senior years with a quality of life, rather than simply clinging to life.

Tips for aging successfully:

  • Prevention: Many diseases in later life are preventable through even minor lifestyle changes, even for people with chronic disabilities.
  • Nutrition: Nutrition is an important component of aging well, since it improves physical well-being while regulating stress and promotes social inclusion and participation.
  • Physical activity: Physical activity reduces by about 50% the risk of many disorders related to inactivity, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Mental health: Total health is not merely about the absence of infirmity or disease but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
  • Join a program: In Canada, the New Horizons for Seniors Program is designed to empower seniors, encouraging them to share their knowledge, skills and experience with others in the community and enhance their social well-being.
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Don’t let chronic pain take over your work

Have you been suffering from prolonged chronic pain? Do you feel that medication and treatment was inadequate? Is your everyday life being effected? Managing chronic pain can be complicated and frustrating, because such pain is unpredictable, invisible and not always caused by a single reason. Chronic pain is also associated with mental health issues, and the inability to perform everyday tasks.  

Managing chronic pain may be a long term struggle but it is not impossible.

Here are some tips to help self-manage chronic pain at work, and prevent it from hindering your activities and job tasks:   

  • Set small, achievable goals and take your time – Don’t give up!
  • Gentle and frequent exercise
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle- explore new hobbies, meditation and nutritional diet.
  • Talk to a professional about other forms of treatment and therapies
  • Focus on yourself, take time out for family and plan activities around your needs or pain management schedule
  • Openly communicate your ongoing pain condition and any changes with your boss
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External Links

Canadian Mental Health Association

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), founded in 1918, is one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada. As the nationwide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.

On this site you will find

  • Information about mental health and access to mental health assessment tools
  • Mental health programs for workplaces
  • Research and other information
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Mental Health Meter

Understanding the characteristics that make up good mental health will help you determine how mentally fit you are.  This mental health meter helps you explore your personal characteristics of mental health and provides feedback based on your scores.

The characteristics of mental health are

  • Ability to enjoy life
  • Resilience
  • Balance
  • Self-Actualization
  • Flexibility

Click on the link below to take the mental health meter.

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Alzheimer Society Canada

The Alzheimer Society is the leading not-for-profit health organization working nationwide to improve the quality of life for Canadians affected by Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and advance the search for the cause and cure. Active in communities right across Canada, the Society has programs and services near you.

At this site you can access information about:

  • Learn about dementia and living with dementia
  • Where you can access programs and services near you
  • Resources for:
    • People with dementia
    • Caregivers
    • Healthcare professionals
    • First responders
    • Financial advisors
  • Research
  • News and Events
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Optimal Aging – McMaster University Creates Evidenced Based Site for Healthy Aging

This website provides evidence based information about healthy aging. The this site and its social media network will  brings you the best available related research evidence at the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal

This site contains content on:

  • Women’s Health
  • Men’s Health
  • Mental Health
  • Cancer
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Consumer Protection
  • Arthritis
  • Transportation
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What is Brain Health?

What is Brain Health? is a national campaign to help raise awareness about brain health while empowering older adults to make the most of their brains as they age.

At this site you can access information about:

  • How your brain changes as you age
  • Tips on how to engage your brain
  • Other resources and information about brain health
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