In order to live fully, we need our brain to be healthy. While reports of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease paint a picture of brain decline, there are things we can do to improve our chances of aging well. Science has discovered more about the brain in the past 20 years than in all of history, so catching up on the latest findings can be important to your ability to age on your own terms.
For many years, it was thought that the brain could not produce new brain cells. Today, research has shown that not only can the brain generate new brain cells, the way we live can potentially protect us against disease. In an article in the American Society on Aging’s journal, Generations, Paul Nussbaum, PhD writes about 5 lifestyle changes that are necessary to promote brain health at any age.
Physical activity. Regular exercise causes improvements in cognition and your ability to think, partly by supplying more blood to the brain. Find what works for you—walk every day, take up yoga, dance more often. And limit the amount of time you spend sitting.
Mental stimulation. Keep your brain fueled by taking up new activities that challenge you. Consider learning a new language a musical instrument. Travel. Take a different route to work or the store. You can also try creative pursuits or brain fitness exercises.
Spirituality. Connect with something greater than yourself. Whether you meditate, pray, or commune with nature, taking time to contemplate or center yourself in a peaceful state can beneficially affect your brain. Try muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, and affirmative thinking. Or just take time to be still.
Nutrition. Eating foods that are high in fiber, essential fatty acids (like Omega 3 and Omega 6), and vitamins and minerals can deliver significant brain health benefits. Avoid or limit processed foods, red meat, trans fats, and sugar. Eat fish once a week along with 6 handfuls of fruits and vegetables daily, unsalted almonds and walnuts, and beans. And try the Mediterranean diet, one found to support brain health.
Socialization. Isolation is bad for the brain, especially as we age. So stay connected. Maintain a network of supportive friends and family members. Participate in recreational and social activities that allow for conversation with others. Meet new people. If you can’t get out, use Skype or email or texting to stay in touch.
The key to keeping your brain healthy is creating a lifestyle that supports the health of your brain for the rest of your life. You’ve heard most of this before. Is keeping your brain in good health enough motivation to lead you to take at least one step? Think about it. While you can.