What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress are all critically important to your brain health.
It’s Never Too Early to Focus on Brain Health
Many don’t think about brain health until they learn that a loved one is truly struggling. Too often, adults first focus on it after retirement, or when we begin to notice little lapses in our memories, such as forgetting where we left the car keys or the name of an actor.
We can make choices now that can help our brain health in the future:
Identify Health Goals
Take time to set goals for both your physical and cognitive health—they are interrelated. Create a wellness routine that includes healthy eating and exercise and don’t forget to include social engagement and mental challenges. Adopt new habits like music therapy, light therapy, and other forms of ambient stimulation for your brain.
Eating balanced, nutritious meals has a positive impact on the health of your brain. A growing body of evidence suggests that adhering to the Mediterranean diet—one that is rich in whole grains, fish, and fresh produce—has positive effects on cognitive function. Foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 are also correlated with improved cognition. Meanwhile, avoiding trans fats commonly found in fast food and processed foods is recommended for overall health—including brain health.
Experts have established that people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of experiencing cognitive decline, as regular physical activity has been shown to improve memory and stimulate changes in the brain that help you think and learn. In addition to improving brain health, exercise has many obvious benefits including weight loss, better sleep, an enhanced mood, and lower chances of chronic illness.
Stay Mentally Fit
Exercising your mind is just as critical as exercising your body, and the familiar adage applies: you use it or you lose it. Learning something new, such as a foreign language or a musical instrument, or taking up a new hobby will keep your brain active. Puzzles and memorization tasks will also get those neurons firing.
See Your Doctor
If you have medical conditions that require attention, make sure to see a doctor regularly and to follow their recommendations. Conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and depression can increase the risk of cognitive decline and should be addressed by medical professionals. A healthy brain is more likely to thrive in a healthy body.
Sleep Well, Stress Less
When you sleep, your body recharges and heals itself. Sleep may also help reduce the buildup of beta-amyloid, an abnormal protein associated with cognitive decline and memory loss. Similarly, chronic and severe stress can have harmful effects on your brain. Stress management, such as meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques, can be helpful in keeping you calm and relaxed, as well as allow you to get the sleep you need.
Stay Socially Connected
Studies show that the more social interactions we have, the better our brains work, especially when it comes to memory and cognition. Socialize with your friends and loved ones, and stay active in your community. Consider joining a group class, volunteering, or setting up regular dates with friends—anything that will get you out of the house and into a social setting.