When we think about staying fit, we generally think from the neck down. But brain health plays a critical role in almost everything we do – thinking, feeling, remembering, working, playing, and even sleeping. There are a number of things you can do to help keep your brain healthier as you age. Increasing evidence shows that healthy lifestyle habits, such as being heart smart, eating a brain-healthy diet, staying physically and mentally active, and staying socially involved contribute to healthier aging and might also decrease your risk for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
Be heart smart
Because your brain is nourished by a rich network of blood vessels, its health is closely tied to the overall health of your heart and circulatory system. Heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke all affect blood flow to the brain and are risk factors for dementia. Recent research suggests diabetes may also increase risk of Alzheimer’s.
Make brain-healthy lifestyle choices
Monitor and manage your numbers – Do everything you can to keep your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar within recommended ranges to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Eat wisely – Research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. A low fat, low-cholesterol diet is advisable. And there is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells.
Stay physically active – Physical exercise helps maintain good blood flow to the brain, which is essential for brain health, and also alters brain chemicals that help protect the brain.
Keep mentally active – Mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells.
Remain socially involved – Social activity not only makes physical and mental activity more enjoyable, it can reduce stress levels, which helps maintain healthy connections among brain cells.
10 ways to maintain brain health
1. Head First
Good health starts with your brain so don’t take it for granted. It’s one of the most important body organs and needs care and maintenance.
2. Take Brain Health To Heart
Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
3. Your Numbers Count
Keep your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within recommended ranges.
4. Feed Your Brain
Eat a low-fat, low cholesterol diet that features dark-skinned vegetables and fruits, foods rich in antioxidants. vitamins E and C, B12, foliate and Omega-3 fatty acids..
5. Work Your Body
Physical exercise keeps the blood flowing and encourages new brain cells. It’s doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity. Do what you can – walking 30 minutes a day – to keep both body and mind active.
6. Jog Your Mind
Keeping you brain active and engaged increases it vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections. Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles.
7. Connect With Others
Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements are most likely to prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join.
8. Heads Up! Protect Your Brain
Take precautions against injuries. Use your car seat belts, unclutter your house to avoid falls, and wear a helmet when cycling.
9. Use Your Head
Avoid unhealthy habits. Don’t smoke, drink excessive alcohol or use street drugs.
10. Think Ahead - Start Today
You can do something today to protect your tomorrow.
To learn more, visit the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association website.
They host a 24-hour Helpline, 1-800-272-3900, to access peer and professionally led support groups, safety services, community education and professional dementia care training programs, care consultation, multicultural outreach, and advocacy efforts.