Having the occasional mind slip-up like forgetting where you placed your keys or recall a word can happen at any age. But cognitive decline such as consistently struggling to remember monthly bills or stay focused in conversations is not a natural part of getting older, according to the National Institute on Aging. The truth is, your mind, like your physical body, is always capable of change for better or for worse. And the degree and nature of that change has less to do with age and more to do with action. What many people do not realize is that, just like your body, the performance of your mind improves with proper and consistent training. Likewise, when not given enough stimulus, your brain becomes less capable of reaching optimal levels and more susceptible to decline. You can train your mind for enhanced sharpness and help safeguard it from degeneration in the future. Here are some science-proven strategies you can start using today to build a stronger brain that will serve you well into your golden years.
Move Your Body
When it comes to training your brain, your body is an essential part of the formula. Exercise is one of the most important things anyone can do to improve brain function and fight off disease. Using the sugars in your blood to fuel your muscles instead of sitting idle helps prevent dramatic glucose and insulin fluctuations that increase the risk for dementia. Exercise also helps lower inflammation and that is critical in preventing dementia. Other brain-health benefits exercise provides include releasing mood-boosting chemicals and decreasing stress hormone production. Exercise also stimulates the release of growth factors involved in the healthy function and production of all cells, including brain cells. Now you don’t have to become a marathon runner or power lifter to reap these benefits. Doing any type of physical activity that gets your body moving for a just a few minutes a day will boost brain health as well as your overall wellness.
Stretch Your Mind
The adage “use it or lose it” applies to both our body and brain. Keeping your brain sharp means keeping it actively engaged. Research shows that the quality of brain engagement matters for building brain resiliency over the long term. This means engaging in activities that require reasoning, problem-solving and acquiring knowledge. Consider things like learning a new language, starting a new hobby, or reading a book that’s outside your scope of expertise. You also might want to try online brain games that involve speed training. Unlike puzzles that only help with working memory, speed-processing games have been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Rest Your Body and Brain
Sleep is not just a time of rest but an essential restoration process that impacts all systems of the body. This is especially true for the brain, which relies on quality deep sleep nightly for memory consolidation. Another important aspect of resting your brain is to give it regular breaks from stress. This is vital for brain health as a high level of the stress hormone cortisol is linked to brain inflammation, cognitive decline, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Thankfully, regular daily exercise can effectively relieve stress and help you sleep better.
Fuel Your Brain
There’s no denying that the food and beverages we consume can have positive or negative health implications. As such, consuming certain foods and limiting others can help promote brain health and prevent decline. That said, due to challenges conducting nutrition studies, enough valid research does not yet exist showing a clear and direct correlation between a particular style of diet and better brain health. There are, however, general nutrition advice based on current science that you should consider when picking what to eat and drink. The first is to cut sugar, studies have found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline that those with normal blood sugar. Another tip is to stay hydrated, even moderate dehydration is associated with cognitive deficits. Adding omega-3s from natural resources is another thing to consider. Omega-3 has shown to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein found to form damaging clumps in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Another piece of advice is to reduce portions, portion control is an important aspect of brain health as obesity is linked to a higher risk of dementia. Then finally plan your meals ahead of time. Planning ahead enables you to keep brain health in mind when setting a menu, this helps in making better choices about the foods you eat.
Connect With Others
Over the years, numerous studies have shown that strong social relationships contribute to healthier and happier lives. But, when it comes to brain health, recent research has shown those relationships also enhance neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, enhance and preserve its cognitive abilities. It’s important to actively cultivate existing relationships through regular communication and foster new relationships by taking part in new activities. You can double your brain-boosting benefits by socializing in an exercise class or joining a book club or hobby group.
You should feel empowered to take control of your brain health, starting today. Taking proactive steps to enhance your brain’s health and performance will serve you for many years to come.