Have you ever stopped to think about how impressive your brain is?

Read Kim's story about her father's brain health and dementia journey and download our Brain Health leaflet

Yes, occasionally you might trip up the stairs or forget why you walked into the kitchen (we all do it!) but even the simplest of tasks, like making a cup of tea, relies on perfectly timed activity between millions of brain cells; and so much of this happens without us even needing to think (too hard) about it.

So, it’s unusual that when thinking about our physical and mental health, it’s rare that we consider the health of our brains and what we can be doing to keep those hard-working brain cells firing.

You might be surprised to know that there are several simple steps we can all take to improve and maintain the health of our brains. Even more surprisingly, research suggests that keeping our brains healthy could reduce our risk of developing dementia later in life and, for those who are living with a cognitive condition, adopting a brain healthy lifestyle may help them to remain independent for longer.

It’s never too late (or too early) to start looking after your brain health, and even small changes could make a big difference

That’s why for Dementia Action Week this year Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and Dementia United are taking the opportunity to talk about brain health. We’re sharing information, hints, tips, recipes, and personal stories from our team and partners across Greater Manchester to raise awareness and help you adopt some of those small changes which might make a big difference.

Here we’d like to share with you our newly launched brain health leaflet which has been codesigned alongside Trafford Council, CCG, and members of the public. We hope this will provide you with enough information to get you started on your brain health journey.

Your Brain Health Leaflet 2022

We’d also like to share with you Kim’s brain health story. Kim is a member of our Dementia Carers Expert Reference Group and has kindly offered to share with you some insight from her own journey as a carer for her father who’s brain healthy lifestyle, she believes, helped him to live well with dementia.

Diagnosis: When Dad received his diagnosis, I was angry. How could this happen to a man who had always taken such very good care of himself in every sense?  Fuelled by longstanding local concerns about agrochemical pollution, I rejected and resented the idea that ‘a healthy lifestyle’ made any difference to anyone’s chances of developing dementia.  

Dad said,  “there’s nothing I can do about it.  I want to live”.   

Being, Living and Doing Well: Dad came to England from Guyana in 1958, to work and send money back home to supplement the family fishing business following his father’s stroke.  The drive to keep healthy in order to provide for his family never left him; often working two jobs and shifts whilst trying to ensure he slept for 7 hrs (day or night).  

Guyana ‘land of many waters’, has a rainforest and an area called ‘the Garden of Eden’. Dad bought us a house beside a stream and grew organic fruit and vegetables, made chutneys, pickles, and wine which he shared with other villagers. After retiring from the railway, he continued to work pruning trees in a local nature reserve until his late seventies. He travelled regularly to and with family abroad and was well known and liked as a friendly and sociable personality.   

Dad valued education and life-long learning. He researched how to draw the plans, build, wire and centrally heat an extension to the house. He kept his mind active through reading, managing investments, and following current affairs.  

I am certain that Dad lived remarkably well with Dementia (in mind, body, and spirit) because he continued to DO WHAT BROUGHT HIM JOY! ….gardening, eating good Caribbean, Chinese and Asian food especially fish, chicken, Mango and vegetable dishes, a glass of (alcohol free) cold beer, listening to, singing, and dancing to soul Music and hymns. A morning kiss with Mum.  

As dementia presented challenges, Dad persisted in doing what he wanted whenever, and in whatever way he could, in keeping with his personality, identity, values, beliefs, and goals. e.g., riding a bike rather than driving. I watched in awe when he lay down on the patio, carefully plucking tiny weeds from between paving stones. His face revealed concentration, pleasure, and satisfaction. 

Dying Well: When I moved in to care for Mum and Dad because of the Pandemic , Dad stated, “I’m dying. It’s a natural process”.  He repeatedly told Mum and me  ‘it’s all sorted….all done’ . His sense of pride, and peace was evident. He passed away during a nap with a radiant smile on his face aged 87 in March 2021. We take great comfort and inspiration from the fact that he lived, loved, and died very well, and I now believe that his ‘brain healthy’ lifestyle was a key factor.   

Don’t forget, for more information keep an eye on our Twitter account (@dementiaunited) throughout the week where we’ll be sharing more information including brain friendly recipes, personal stories, hints, and tips.