11 Ways to keep your brain sharp as you age
05/15/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
11 Ways to keep your brain sharp as you age

Like most things, the brain changes with age. Brain cells develop and disappear and the connections between neurons strengthen and weaken over time. Even the size and structure of the brain might become altered later in life.

While it’s true that certain stages of development are more critical for the brain than others, stress and traumatic injuries can leave a lasting impact on the brain and affect cognitive functions over time.

Extensive neurological studies show that good lifestyle habits like regular exercise, proper nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases are crucial for brain health.

If you want to avoid premature cognitive decline and cognitive impairment, here are 11 habits to adopt as soon as possible.

Engage in mental stimulation

One of the best ways to keep the mind sharp as you age is to engage in activities that work the brain. Build a piece of furniture, complete a jigsaw puzzle or take up an instrument–get creative. Mental challenges exercise the brain just as physical challenges exercise muscles.

Exercise

Believe it or not, physical exercise also benefits the brain. Studies show that regular exercise increased blood flow to the region of the brain responsible for thought. Exercise also stimulates the development of new nerve cells and enhances neural communications, which keep the mind sharp.

Follow a balanced diet

Fruits and vegetables contain tons of antioxidants and plant compounds that help protect the brain from inflammation, cellular damage, cognitive decline and more. Monounsaturated fats found in nuts, olive oil and sesame oil are also beneficial for brain health.

Watch out for high blood pressure

High blood pressure can cause blood clots in the brain, thus increasing the risk of stroke. To ease stiff and narrow arteries, limit sodium intake and cut back on caffeine. It also helps to exercise often and follow a balanced diet.

Limit sugar intake

Diabetes is considered a risk factor for vascular dementia, a type of dementia that occurs due to poor blood flow to the brain. Most diabetics also tend to experience adverse brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent diabetes, limit sugar intake and stick to an exercise routine.

Improve cholesterol

Low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of bad cholesterol increase the risk of dementia later in life. Several plant-based foods contain good cholesterol including olive oil, beans, whole grains, flaxseeds and nuts. Avoid sources of bad cholesterol like fried foods, fast foods and processed meats.

Avoid or quit smoking

Harmful substances in cigarette smoke can damage the brain and impair cognitive functions. In fact, longtime smokers face an increased risk of dementia. If you’ve been smoking for a while, it’s never too late to quit. You’ll notice improvements in as little as a week after stopping.

Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol is not harmful when consumed in moderation. But excessive drinking has been linked to numerous chronic diseases including dementia.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep compromises important brain functions like learning and concentration. Over time, poor sleep quality can lead to a heightened risk of dementia. People who lack sleep also tend to be more susceptible to stress, mood swings, fatigue and mental disorders.

Make an effort to prevent traumatic head injuries

The brain is one of the most sensitive and delicate organs, and something as simple as a fall can result in paralysis, if not total cognitive impairment. Studies show that traumatic brain injuries from falls, car accidents and the like can also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Make it a habit to wear seat belts or use helmets when engaging in contact sports to minimize the risk of head injuries.

Build meaningful connections

Loneliness contributes to feelings of unhappiness and increases the risk of mental disorders and dementia. Loneliness can also be indicative of low levels of serotonin. To avoid loneliness, build friendships, spend time with a loved one, keep in touch with acquaintances and participate in communal activities.

Mental decline is a normal part of aging. But cognitive impairment is not. Adopt these 11 habits to maintain brain health and keep the mind sharp over time.

Sources:

Health.Harvard.edu

Healthline.com

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