Contrary to popular belief, mental decline isn't "just part of growing old." However, just like other parts of your body, your brain must stay healthy and fit to maintain optimal performance. The human brain produces brain cells throughout its life. This means that you can always continue improving your memory and learning new things. The problem is that many people don't stimulate their minds nearly as much as they did while attending school or working in their chosen field. They also may not read as much as they once did or try as many new activities. No matter what your age, there are infinite simple ways to keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp.
1. Adopt a Healthy Diet
Studies have shown that vitamins B and E, along with healthy fats (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil), can help prevent dementia. It can be challenging to get all of your required nutrients in your daily diet, though. Taking a supplement, such as green superfood powder, can assist in boosting overall health. Vegetables (particularly the green leafy kind), berries and seafood are excellent for promoting brain health. Three diets have excellent neuroprotective benefits: the Mediterranean diet, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The Mediterranean diet features healthy fats and vegetables. The DASH diet highlights fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy. DASH also limits red meat and processed foods. The MIND diet was developed specifically to prevent dementia, combining many aspects of the Mediterranean and DASH diets while adding more neuroprotective benefits.
2. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking
Alcohol and tobacco are believed to increase the risk of dementia. Most adults are okay to drink alcohol in moderation. However, if you're a smoker, you should do whatever it takes to give up your tobacco addiction.
3. Exercise Daily
Adopting a regular exercise routine can reduce your risk of conditions that increase your chance of developing dementia (e.g., high blood pressure and high cholesterol). Physical activity helps maintain blood flow to the brain, so it's super healthy for your body and mind. Your exercise routine doesn't have to be vigorous, but getting your heart rate up each time is essential. A moderate-pace walk for 30 minutes to an hour each day, at least five days a week, can be a tremendous benefit to your health.
4. Control Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Studies have shown a possibility that heart disease and stroke can contribute to developing some forms of dementia. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol can significantly decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. So, how do you get these under control? Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and visit your doctor routinely.
5. Exercise Your Brain
People who have more years of formal education have a reduced risk for dementia. A "cognitive reserve" is thought to be built during years of engaging in mentally-stimulating activities such as schooling or working in a highly cerebral occupation. A cognitive reserve is the brain's ability to manage connections between neurons (i.e., nerve cells) to perform cognitive tasks despite enduring some neurological damage over time. Find time to exercise your brain each day. Whether learning new skills, reading, participating in trivia night or solving crossword puzzles and brain teasers, stimulating your brain regularly can make a big difference in your cognitive function.
6. Learn New Skills
Is there a skill that you've always wanted to learn but never had the time until recently? Research has found that learning new skills in later life can decrease or pause aging-related cognitive changes. Enroll in a class (e.g., photography or writing) if you want some social interaction. There are also plenty of online resources for learning just about any skill you could imagine. So, learn to play an instrument, paint with oils, crochet or quilt. If you love technology, consider delving into some coding.
Even if you're a big homebody, you must frequently socialize. Studies have shown that older adults who frequently practice social engagement have a reduced risk of dementia than those who don't associate as often. These days, there are numerous communication types: telephone, email, text, video chat, direct messaging and social media. Stay in contact with friends and family. With social media, it's easy to reconnect with old friends, classmates and co-workers. Consider volunteering with a community organization or a local non-profit. You'll meet new friends while learning something new and getting a change of scenery for a while. Volunteering can also give you a greater sense of purpose.
8. Reduce Stress
Stress can cause various problems for your body, reducing blood flow to the brain and affecting concentration, memory and learning ability. Different people have different ways of destressing. For you, it could be reading, getting a massage, fishing or painting. Try taking vacations regularly, even if they're just short weekend trips. Enjoy life, and be sure to get plenty of restful sleep in your downtime.