Adding a few brain-healthy habits to your daily life can help you stay sharp and focused. Some simple habits have great potential to reactivate your brain waves. The brain changes somewhat with age, and with it mental function gradually begins to decline. This mental decline is common today and is one of the most feared consequences of aging. But cognitive impairment is not inevitable. Here are 10 tips to help preserve brain function.
“Many people don’t start thinking about brain health until they notice some cognitive changes and memory loss in their 60s or 70s,” says Elise Caccappolo, MD, associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. However, starting from childhood, there are many things you can do to keep your brain as healthy as possible throughout your life. We know that intellectual pursuits, social interaction, and perhaps most importantly, physical activity help protect our brain.
1. Try To Stimulate Your Mind
Mentally stimulating activities help your brain make new cells and strengthen connections, and working on something particularly challenging can take things a step further. Use brain training apps like Puzzles, Lumosity and Elevate. Force your brain to work. Challenging your brain actually creates a backup system. “The more intellectual stimulation there is, the more diverse neural circuits are used. And the more circuits you have, the harder it is for the changes associated with neurodegenerative diseases to manifest,” says Elise Caccappolo, PhD, an associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
2. Adopt Better Sleep Habits
Getting the right amount of sleep is very important. When your conscious self is on standby, your brain is not. A lot happens when you’re napping, and many believe dreams are our brain’s way of making sense of a day’s information. On the other hand, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re probably not performing at your peak. Sleep deprivation can interfere with hormone production and the formation of memories, so be sure to rest to stay in top shape.
3. Manage Your Stress
Chronic stress can alter your brain structure and cause stem cells to malfunction by causing overproduction of the hormone myelin (the insulating layer around your nerves) and cortisol. While avoiding stressful situations can be difficult at times, it’s important to have a plan to help you manage and reduce your stress levels. This may include relaxation and proper meditation techniques, learning to say no, or keeping a stress diary.
4. Move Your Body
Apart from keeping fit, exercise is also very beneficial for your brain. A study of women ages 70-81 found that exercise was associated with better cognitive performance. Compared with women who did not exercise, active women had a 20% lower risk of cognitive impairment. Research shows that using your muscles also helps your mind. Animals who exercise regularly increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses). This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance in aging animals. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps blood sugar balance and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.
5. Boost Your Brain With A Healthy Diet
Dementia Australia recommends a diet high in unsaturated fats (found in fish and olive oil), fruit, vegetables, lean meats and legumes, while avoiding the bad fats found in processed pastries, cakes or fried foods. Fish and walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps promote the growth of new brain cells and plays a role in learning and memory. Berries, tomatoes, kidney beans and oranges are also natural antioxidants that act against inflammation and help improve brain cell communication. A better diet paired with physical activity will in turn improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, which are all instrumental in maximising your brain health.
6. Quit Smoking
Sigarayı bırakmak, beyin sağlığı da dahil olmak üzere sağlığınızın birçok yönünü iyileştirir. 500’den fazla sigara içen, eski sigara içenler ve sigara içmeyenler üzerinde yapılan bir çalışmada, beyin taramaları, mevcut ve eski sigara içenlerin daha ince bir korteksine sahip olduğunu ortaya çıkardı – beyninizin hafıza, dil ve algıdan sorumlu kısmı. Korteks yaşla birlikte incelse de, sigara içmek onu hızlandırıyor gibi görünüyor. Sigarayı bırakmak korteksteki kalınlığı geri kazanmaya yardımcı olabilir – yavaş ama emin adımlarla.
7. Try To Be More Social
Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of dementia, as well as lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy. If you don’t like to be social, you can join a book club, take a guided tour of your city, have dinner with your friends at a regular restaurant, or talk to your animals or plants when no one is around.
8. Try To Learn New Things
Studies have found that everyday forms of learning activate neuron receptors that help your brain cells maintain their optimal performance. This process is also linked to theta rhythms, which are brain rhythms associated with learning that play a vital role in encoding new memories.
9. Don’t Stick To Routine
The brain is not very keen on routine. Every once in a while you have to surprise him by trying something new. If you have a monotonous job, challenge yourself with different things in your spare time. If you’re always driving, try something you’re not used to, like riding a bike. Or if you’re right-handed, try typing or eating with your left hand.
10. Take Care Of Yourself
The top priority for brain health is self-care. Talking to someone, taking care of your body, eating well, resting, relaxing… Don’t isolate yourself. Go outside and inhale some Vitamin D. According to research, depression can physically change your brain, so prioritizing your health through self-care strategies should always be at the top of your agenda.