We all know that as we age, we need to keep not only exercising our bodies but also our mind. Keeping our brain sharp and active allows us to continue living active and fulfilling lives.
This week I would like to introduce a guest writer, Marcus from psychi.com., a site dedicated to examining the latest research and how it can help us in our daily lives.
In his article, Marcus discusses 7 Ways to Keep an Ageing Brain Sharp – something we should always we working on.
As we age there comes a need to adapt and overcome so that we can continue to do the things we love for as long as possible.
And this isn’t just restricted to the ‘twilight years’. By the time we are 20, we realise we can’t do the things with our body that we used to be able to do, by the time we are 35 we are less sure of our physical prowess of just a few years prior, and mentally we are filled with self-doubts that as a child would have felt alien to us.
Studies have suggested that a lot of mental degradation happening at older ages is because of lifestyle, in other words, if you aren’t staying mentally active, your brain cells respond to that, or to be more accurate – forget how to respond.
Luckily, there are ways to jumpstart your cranium and make new and smart choices for your brain health. The best news is you can start at any age, the earlier the better, but the brain is surprisingly adaptive and responsive to new stimulation.
Here are some ways to keep an Ageing Brain Sharp:
1. Keep moving
A sedentary lifestyle is the biggest hindrance for brain function. Exercise provides oxygen and important nutrients to the brain. It improves reaction time, reasoning and memory too. Even a short 10 minute walk each day is enough make a significant difference.
Of course, exercise has an innumerable amount of other health benefits such as regulating blood sugar, weight loss and diabetes prevention.
You might not be able to do what you used to be able to, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop moving all together.
2. Eat like the Greeks
Argye Hillis MD, professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests to follow a Mediterranean style diet if you are looking to boost brain health. This is because this type of diet is very high in fruits, vegetables and fish.
Fish in particular is a superstar when it comes to brain health, it is rich in omega 3’s which not only reduces brain tissue inflammation but also inhibits cell death and helps reconnect damaged neurons. Fruits and vegetables are fantastic for overall health but are especially good for your brain. Dark leafy greens in particular are high in vitamin E and folate which inhibit cell death by breaking down homocysteine which is linked to heart disease.
3. Lift Weights, Mentally
We all know that physical exercise is good for you, but mental exercise is not often considered. Exercising your brain is easy and can actually be a lot of fun. Reading is especially good for the brain because it requires long periods of focus with the comprehension muscles working constantly.
Board games, crossword puzzles, and math games are all great for focussing and upping brain power.
Watching television does not “kill” brain cells, contrary to popular belief, but it is not the best choice if you want to improve brain health.
4. Expand your Social Life
Staying social has positive benefits for both mood and overall health. It’s been proven that the more social connections one has, the better they are at maintaining mental function and memory.
Being social can also lower chances of depression which has a correlation with dementia. If you enjoy reading, why not join a book club, or if you love cooking consider joining a cooking class.
5. Get those Zzz’s
You know what it’s like waking up at 7am from 4 hours of sleep. You’re cranky, unreasonable and sometimes lack the right judgement. Sleep affects the brain and vice versa so much that people often go to sleep clinics to get treated for sleep disorders.
It’s normal to require less sleep as we age, but it’s still important to get enough. Those that get a restful night’s sleep are more equipped for the day and demonstrate sharper mental focus, attention and concentration than those who have restful or short periods of sleep.
To get a good night’s sleep try avoiding eating big meals at night, consider eliminated caffeine which stimulated the nervous system, or try taking a herbal supplement for sleep like valerian or chamomile.
6. Lay off the Stress
It can be difficult to not stress in this fast paced world, but teaching your brain how to relax is essential for optimal brain health. High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone can hinder memory and mental function. Using tools such as meditation, yoga or even hypnosis can be extremely beneficial for stress levels and can give your brain some well-deserved R&R.
7. Stop Smoking
This may seem obvious, but it’s never too late to quit.
Smoking is known as a health hazard for a good reason, it negatively affects almost every facet of health, so it’s no surprise it affects mental functioning too. Smoking causes significant memory loss as you age. Smoking’s effects on memory has to do with the fact it causes small strokes in the brain.
If you can quit it will be an enormous investment for your future brain health and overall health. Try nicotine patches to help you quit or talk to your doctor for further information.
As you can see, taking control of your brain health is mostly about lifestyle. Of course certain medical conditions absolutely have their effects, but with the right tools, it is possible to maintain mental function throughout your golden years.
Marcus launched psysci.co in 2014 while completing a master’s degree in health psychology. The site aims to examine the latest research and interpret how findings can benefit our everyday lives.
Twitter: https://t witter.com/psysci_co_uk