Be Proactive in Treating Mental Health, Brain Health Expert Tells Seniors

Courtesy of Turlock Covenant Village|

Covenant Village of Turlock recently hosted brain health expert Dr. Len Lecci, who taught more than 120 local seniors some of the basics of brain health and how to assess memory function.

“Nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation and social opportunities all impact how our brains function,” said Bob Howell, executive director at Covenant Village of Turlock. “That’s why we feel it’s important to share Dr. Lecci’s message that small changes in diet and physical activity can produce big results in memory care.”

Dr. Lecci is a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and director of Clinical Services for MARS Memory Health Network. He specializes in the assessment of memory and clinical disorders, and has been involved in a project to maximize the early detection of memory problems for the past eight years.

At the educational seminar, Lecci explained that triggers for memory loss sometimes come from places other than one might expect. While prescription medications and strokes may be more well known for their risk factors on the brain, other conditions such as depression or stress can also cause memory loss. Still, it is advised that patients work with their doctors to identify and get the appropriate treatment.

Lecci’s plan for attack? Be proactive about treatment.

“People need to treat memory care the same way they’d treat any other health condition: proactively,” said Lecci. “Age is the number one risk for memory loss.”

Lecci suggests identifying potential risk factors at any age, but especially for people over 55. Other risks Lecci described included family history of dementia, type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure/cholesterol, history of a stroke or tumor, existing dementia diagnosis, or ongoing treatment that may affect a cognitive or behavioral change.

Lecci’s experience includes his published works in journals in psychology and medicine. He has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation and Alzheimer’s North Carolina and briefed Congress.

His suggestions for lowering the risk of memory loss include a three-fold approach: diet, exercise, and early intervention.

Lecci suggests people consume a heart and brain healthy diet by choosing foods high in folate/folic acid/B-9 — collard greens, chickpeas, asparagus, strawberries; B-12 — eggs, fish, meat, poultry; iron — spinach, figs, apricots; antioxidants — berries, red wine, dark chocolate, tumeric; and omega-3 — cod liver oil, soy, canola.

He also suggested regular physical exercise because it increases neuronal protection and can even increase production of new neurons. Lecci also explained that regular mental exercise is essential to brain health as well. Regular stimulation and socializing add protective factors.

Finally, by monitoring health and seeking early intervention, Lecci suggested having a memory baseline to gauge one’s brain health. According to Lecci, it’s important to use the latest assessments with your doctor in order to detect even minor changes in memory function.

For Howell, hosting the seminar at Covenant Village meant providing access for seniors to a health expert and his worthwhile advice.

“We’re a community committed to helping seniors enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle,” said Howell. 

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