Getting older does not necessarily mean that you will lose your memory, language skills or cognitive abilities. However, decline in your mental abilities is more likely as you age, and so it is beneficial to take steps now to keep your brain in peak condition. Here are four tips for maintaining brain function in later life.
We all know the importance of eating healthily, but several studies have also shown that a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish and moderate alcohol intake can reduce cognitive decline in our later years. This does not mean that eating good foods will counteract the effects of unhealthy indulgences, such as fried or processed foods. There is also no one specific food that will help to keep your brain healthy, although some foods have been found to have more benefit than others, such as blueberries, walnuts and dark chocolate. The best prevention comes from a combination of healthy foods, such as those found in the Mediterranean diet.
It might seem strange that exercise can keep your brain fit and healthy as well as your body, but a growing amount of research is supporting the benefits of exercise for preventing vascular dementia, as well as increasing overall brain health. Exercise increases the blood flow around the body and to the brain, which allows oxygen and nutrients to reach more of the brain tissue. Exercise can also help to reduce some lifestyle-related health problems, such as diabetes and high-cholesterol, which have been correlated with Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise does not have to be intense, but it should be enjoyable, otherwise you won’t want to keep it up. You could try walking with a friend, swimming, or join a dance class for more fun while you move.
Keep Your Brain Active
We now know that the brain is capable of generating new brain cells into old age. Using memory exercises and brain training can help to increase the number of brain cells that are generated. The more brain connections that are formed, the better the brain is able to cope with any loss due to ageing or disease. Any activities that stimulate the brain, including puzzles and games, reading and learning something new, can all help to keep your brain young.
Those people who are socially active have been found to be less at risk of developing dementia compared to those who are lonely. Loneliness can also lead to anxiety and depression, which also impair cognitive skills and memory.
There is no guarantee of preventing cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s as you get older, but the suggestions from studies on the effects of lifestyle choices provide useful ways of reducing that risk.
Do you have any useful tips for ways to keep your brain active, get more exercise or increase your social life? Please leave your comments below.