Forming ten key habits in everyday life can reduce the risk of cognitive decline in people of all ages. Combining all of these habits can achieve maximum benefit for both your brain and body. You’re never too old to incorporate them – so start today!
The Alzheimer’s Association has come up with suggestions that could be the difference between a weak, aging brain and a strong one. Read further for tips and tricks from healthcare professionals.
- Get that heart rate up.
Engaging in cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow is a great place to start when building up your brain health. Studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.
The positive association between physical activity and the state of one’s mental health can be as easy as going on a morning walk, afternoon bike ride or late-night cardio session in a home gym. Even 30 minutes of physical activity can prompt the brain to think differently and more positively rather than nothing at all.
- Open the page of a new book.
Frequent reading is a helpful way to ward off mental decline and conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Reading puts our brains into a state similar to meditation and brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm.
Developing a routine of reading early in the morning or right before bed is a simple step to improve brain function, even if it’s just a few pages at a time.
- Smoking? Stop it.
Evidence strongly shows that any smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. The nicotine in products readily absorbs into the blood, causing cigarettes and vaping to be as addictive as heroin. This reaction can lead to having a stroke, resulting in either brain damage or death.
Although stopping can lead to both your mind and body to experience withdrawal, professionals are readily available to combat the symptoms with help and resources.
- Take care of your heart.
The health of your heart and brain go hand in hand when leading a positive lifestyle. Be sure to monitor your blood pressure, manage your diabetes and maintain the appropriate weight for your height and body type.
If not, risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke can negatively impact your cognitive health.
- Your brain deserves protection.
Brain injury, whether big or small, can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wearing a helmet creates an additional layer for the head and reduces the impact of a force or collision. For example, wear a helmet while playing contact sports, skiing down a mountain or riding a bike.
It is also important to fasten your seatbelt when driving or riding in a vehicle. The vast majority of head trauma suffered in car crashes is found in unbuckled drivers and passengers.
- Make smart food choices.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet that is higher in both vegetables and fruit and lower in fat can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Dieticians suggest leafy greens that are rich in nutrients as kale, spinach and broccoli. They also recommend fish, berries, nuts, eggs and a moderate amount of dark chocolate.
- Hit the hay.
Sleep deprivation impairs brain functions such as memory and decision-making. During sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember new information. A lack of sleep can negatively impact both short and long-term memory. Furthermore, your concentration, creativity and problem-solving skills aren’t up to par when you don’t get enough rest.
If your nighttime routine doesn’t allow for enough sleep throughout the night, try moving up your bedtime by 15 minutes each week until you’re getting enough sleep for your body. Adults need between seven to nine hours of rest per night to function at their best.
- Take care of your mental health.
The definition of mental illness is a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feeling or behavior. Whether big or small, depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns can dramatically increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Talking to a trusted professional and accessing resources available to you is an immediate step to take in prioritizing not only brain health but your overall health.
- Rely on friends.
We know that leading an intellectually stimulating life may foster cognitive vitality and promote brain activity. Friends that share common interests can keep the brain active, and doing things you find rewarding can lead to not only a happy life but a long one.
Consider pursuing social activities that are meaningful to you. Like reading? Join your community book club. Animals make you happy? Volunteer at the local shelter.
- Stump yourself.
Challenge and activate your mind by completing a puzzle, playing board games, or even building a piece of furniture. When you regularly stimulate your brain, you create new neural connections that help keep your mind youthful.