A healthy brain will allow you to live a longer and happier life. However instances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are becoming increasingly common among older adults. Keeping your brain active is one way you can aid the prevention of such diseases for longevity and a healthy mind.
“Brain health” is a combination of physical health and cognitive fitness. The physical health of your brain is determined by how well you take care of your overall health and body, especially your heart. Your brain requires 25% of the blood pumped by your heart, therefore maintaining a healthy heart through exercise and diet is vital. Cognitive fitness is the brain’s ability to reason, remember, learn, plan and adapt. Under conditions where the brain is challenged in specific ways such as attention, perception, thinking and language, new neuron connections and pathways are developed.
Here are my recommendations to revitalise and maintain your brain health:
Daily movement is essential for brain health – the healthier your heart is, the healthier your brain will be. This does not have to involve intense exercise or gym workouts. Keep active in your daily routine, like choosing to put away the car keys when you can walk instead. Along with maintaining a healthy heart to assist your brain, research indicates that exercise has positive benefits for the hippocampus, a brain structure that is important for learning and memory.
Getting the right amount of quality sleep is something that is often overlooked. The “right” amount is between 7.5 and 9 hours a night. When you sleep, your body goes into a mode of self-maintenance where breathing and heartbeat rates slow down, injury healing occurs and your immune system regains its strength after a day of fighting off potential disease.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet is essential to brain and overall health. There are several specific “smart” foods which have been shown to increase the chances of maintaining a healthy brain. These include blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocado and whole grains. Try incorporating these foods into your daily diet to reap the benefits. It is also ideal to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption (no more than 1-2 standard drinks per day).
Keep mentally agile by learning something new
Learning a new activity or skill engages many different parts and pathways of your brain. You could learn to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, or even teach yourself to use your non-dominant hand. Doing such activities can drive your brain to make positive changes and will help you develop many dimensions of brain function, including listening and control of refined movements.
The key to a healthy brain is to have a healthy lifestyle in which you continue to challenge yourself to learn new things and take on new tasks. Brain health cannot be improved by anything in isolation, and requires the combination of several life habits. Incorporating the recommendations above will allow you to be in a great position to contribute to the health of your brain and in the prevention of brain disease for ongoing wellness into your later years.
What brain exercises do you enjoy? Crosswords? Sodoku? Something else? Tell us in the comments below…