10 ways to love your brain and improve cognitive health
It’s never too late to adopt key lifestyle habits to reduce cognitive decline, and with June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in the US, we’ve rounded up the top 10 ways to love your brain and improve cognitive health with the help of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Break a sweat
Many recent studies have found a link between various forms of physical exercise, including cardiovascular, weight-lifting, and yoga, and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, with a study published earlier this year even suggesting that working up a sweat through activities like dancing and gardening can still cut the risk of Alzheimer’s so get moving.
Hit the books
Education and learning at any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia, with a 2015 Australian study finding that college courses for older adults could boost their cognitive skills and reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Many studies have shown an association with cigarette smoking and cognitive decline and dementia, with a 2013 Welsh study showing that smoking was one of the five main factors contributing to cognitive decline, making kicking the habit key.
Follow your heart
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and your brain just might follow.
Watch your head
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia, so wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
Eat well and nourish your body and brain
Studies have shown eating a healthy and balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline, as can a Mediterranean diet rich in good fats such as olive oil, nuts, fish, and a diet that includes seafood and other foods high in omega-3.
Catch some Zzzs
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking, with recent studies showing that a regular sleeping pattern and around seven hours of shut-eye a night could help to stave off cognitive decline.
Take care of your mental health
Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
Other ways to take care of your mental health include regular exercise, staying social, and meditation.
Staying socially engaged may support brain health, with a 2014 meta-analysis by the University of Chicago showing that staying socially active is one of the key ways to live a longer and healthier life.
Taking up a social hobby that you enjoy and spending quality time with friends and family are great ways to feel healthier and happier.
Like returning to college, keeping yourself mentally challenged and your mind active can help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Build a piece of furniture, finish a jigsaw puzzle, do something artistic, or even play a computer game. Challenging your mind may have both short and long-term benefits for your brain.