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St. George woman focuses on brain health to prevent memory loss

ST. GEORGE — The start of the new year often has people flocking to the gym to stay on top of their workout goals, but some of the most valuable exercises don’t happen in the gym. One St. George woman is setting new goals to enhance her brain fitness.

Health is always on the forefront of 68-year-old Jane Stoughton’s mind. She moved from Wyoming to sunny St. George for the outdoor activities the weather offers like walking and hiking.

There’s more to it than meets the eye, however. She recently learned the brain starts to shrink when someone stops learning. Upon hearing this Stoughton thought, “Whoa, I gotta get some classes going here.”

She enrolled in Intermountain Healthcare’s Brain Fitness class at Dixie Regional Medical Center. Body/mind specialist Hannah Rothlin said there is a rising number of baby boomers developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She said brain disease is becoming one of the most progressive diseases in America.

Rothlin said many experience challenges with memory over time. “And that can be very frustrating as we age,” she said.

Rothlin said studies show we can slow down the process of memory loss. “But there are many studies our program is based on research that shows that we can slow down the progression,” she said. “It’s so important to start early.”

The program is based on preventative care to keep the brains of midlife and older adults healthy and strong. Rothlin said the lessons are based on 12 various topics like how to exercise, manage stress, eat healthy and develop social connections.

“Social health is considered really important for brain health and interaction because older adults can get isolated,” Rothlin said

Rothlin said a few practical changes could make a big difference. Stoughton is developing new hobbies like learning how to use a digital camera. “So that’s a challenge and it’s something I’m interested in,” Stoughton said of her new interest.

She is also practicing mindfulness as part of the curriculum. Stoughton participates in guided meditation led by Rothlin.

“My expertise is to teach the participants various forms of breathing exercises, visualization, (and) various meditation practices so that they can really work on a daily basis to keep their stress level under control,” Rothlin explained.

Rothlin said stress can be damaging to brain function if unmanaged. She said the class is designed for healthy individuals who want to preserve their memory.

Stoughton said she is benefitting from the sessions.

“Look at the scenery, be aware of things around me, and it calms me down and also makes me better just a better human being,” she said.

Stoughton said she thinks the class is something everyone should be taking and should start as early as kindergartens. She wants to do everything she can to stay healthy, and to “be [a] benefit to moving, to walking, to staying aware, and to also engage,” she said.

Rothlin said the program is a seven-week course unique to the Live Well Center in St. George. She encourages all adults to start adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle early in life.

For more information or to sign up for the program, visit Dixie Regional Medical Center’s website.

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