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Published on: November 9, 2019
by Women’s Brain Health Initiative:
We all want our cognitive health span to match our lifespan. Fortunately, there is increasing evidence that dementia is not inevitable and exceptional health into old age is possible. The following are some of the best ways to help boost your brain health, provide a buffer against cognitive decline,and keep your brain functioning the way that you want.
Aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain, reduces inflammation, and enhances the birth of new neural stem cells. Incorporate flexibility and balance exercises, as well as weight training, in your workout routine to guard against brain shrinkage.
A good night’s sleep – approximately seven hours – helps remove the toxins associated with Alzheimer’s disease from your brain, assists in the consolidation of memories, and improves focus, coordination, and overall mood.
Chronic levels of stress prematurely age your brain and increase your risk of cognitive impairment. Controlled breathing, meditation, or yoga can help alleviate stress and anxiety, and can also increase brain density.
Learning a new, challenging skill strengthens the neural networks in your brain and builds cognitive reserve. Try learning a musical instrument, a new dance, or even another language in order to protect your memories.
Having an active social life increases brain activity and reduces stress and depression, both of which are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Social isolation can be as detrimental to our health as smoking or being overweight.
The “MIND” diet – which combines a Mediterranean-style diet (fish, fruit, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and whole grains) with the “DASH” diet (low sodium to control hypertension) – contributes to a healthy brain and a healthy heart. Even moderate adherence to the MIND diet has brain-boosting benefits.
A creative outlet can improve your mental clarity. Creativity relieves stress, increases and renews brain function, improves communication between different parts of the brain (which is vital to preventing cognitive deterioration), and improves overall mood.
Consistent exposure to urban environmental factors (such as air pollution and noise), as well as living a stressful, sedentary lifestyle, may contribute to cognitive deterioration. Living near green spaces appears to have the opposite effect.
Our brains are not programmed to be “switched on” all of the time, so a digital detox can be an effective way to give your brain a rest and reduce stress levels. Unplugging on a regular basis can help maintain a healthy balance between “real life” activities and the digital world.
Not surprisingly, what is good for your heart is also good for your brain. The same measures that protect against cardiovascular disease (such as engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and quitting smoking) also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Daydreaming not only lights up the brain areas that handle routine daily activities, but also activates the executive network of the brain, where complex problem-solving happens. So, do not be afraid to let your mind wander occasionally.
Whatever your reading choice may be, reading is a stress-reducing activity that can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, improve your memory, enhance your brain’s connectivity, increase your brain power, and even enhance your empathic skills.
Music can be medicine for your mind, with benefits from memory improvement to stress relief. Musicians tend to have bigger, better-connected, and more sensitive brains, and older adults with musical backgrounds score higher on cognitive tests and show greater mental flexibility.
Dancing prepares your brain for prime learning by pumping blood to your brain and boosting your mental capacities by building new neural paths that make information transmission faster and better. Dancing also helps you have a better outlook in life, decreasing your risk of stress and depression.
Do not wait until the signs of cognitive decline appear. Be proactive now. Good brain health is a lifetime commitment. The earlier you start making healthier lifestyle choices, the stronger the protective effect will be.
Organisms in our guts (gut microbiota) also influence our brains. There is a relationship between digestion, mood, health, and the way we think. Consuming fermented foods, high-fiber foods, and oily fish may help increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut and improve brain health.
Spending downtime on your favourite hobbies can make you happier, less bored, less stressed, and can lower your heart rate. Leisure activities are also a great way to increase productivity and job performance because they help boost creativity and give your brain a much-needed break.
Experts believe that you can slow the signs of dementia an additional five years by learning another language. Your brain builds cognitive reserve and stronger neural connectivity.
DECLUTTER YOUR MIND
Focusing on the negative and worrying about things that are beyond your control wastes time and mental energy. Decluttering your mind from those mental habits is key to building more mental muscle.
Having a positive attitude, sense of humour, being optimistic, easygoing, extroverted, and expressing emotions (rather than bottling them up) can play a role in preserving neurons and creating new ones, lowering stress, and increasing your mood state.
Source: MIND OVER MATTER V9
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