7 ways to keep your brain healthy as you age
As we get older, keeping our brains healthy becomes more crucial. The way we live can have a major impact on our health, and vascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes can accelerate the degradation of our brains.
“It’s never too late to improve your brain health,” Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN, and registered dietitian, told Healthline.
To negate this decline, here are seven ways that you can change your behaviour to protect your brain.
1. Move more
Aiming for 150 minutes or more of aerobic exercises each week can help keep your brain in tip-top shape. But, if you don’t already move regularly, it isn’t too late to start.
Dr David Merrill, neurologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Providence Saint John’s Health Centre in California said that one study found that sedentary older adults who started a new habit of regularly walking for a year showed improvements in memory and growth of memory areas in the brain.
2. Build muscle
Combining aerobic muscles with strength training at least twice a week has been shown to improve heart health, according to Dr Merrill.
“We now know that these activities in all likelihood also improve brain health,” he said.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
On top of exercise, what we eat can impact our health too.
“In addition to eating brain-boosting foods like blueberries, nuts, fatty fish, cut back on frozen meals, take out, deli meat, and cheese, which are some of the highest sources of sodium in the American diet that can drive up blood pressure,” Younkin said.
“Aim to make half your plate non-starchy vegetables and a quarter of your plate whole grains,” she said. “The increase in fibre and decrease in ‘empty’ carbohydrates will help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your blood sugar stable.”
4. Be more mindful
Anxiety and stress can not only impact your mental health, but can take a toll on your physical and brain health too. Practicing mindfulness or meditation could help prevent your vascular health from worsening.
5. Proper sleep
Not getting enough sleep is associated with poor health and several vascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and weight gain.
To keep your brain fit, your brain needs “off” hours to clean up neurons and synapses and make memories. That means that when you don’t get quality sleep, the health of your brain and body can be severely impacted.
6. Use your brain
Keeping your brain healthy requires you to continue using it.
“Remaining cognitively active through social activities, like attending a book club or taking a cooking class, may help slow down or stave off the development of memory loss and associated depression with aging,” Merrill said.
7. Watch your blood pressure
Regularly checking your blood pressure, at least every six months, can help you spot problems before they arise, especially if your blood pressure starts to increase.
Under new guidelines, Guy Mintz, director of cardiovascular health at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in New York, said checking blood pressure “will help us recognise people at earlier ages who are at risk for lifelong high blood pressure.”
Though poor physical health is associated with deteriorating brain health, many of the factors that contribute to this risk of poor brain health are preventable.
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, and making changes to your lifestyle can not only reverse these conditions, but can improve your brain health.
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