When you think of the Fountain of Youth, you probably conjure up images of an eternally fresh-faced and limber version of you. Wrinkle-free skin, boundless energy, and optimum health might be your hallmarks of youth. But brain health is a big part of staying young. Would you want to have a youthful appearance yet still be constantly plagued by so-called senior moments? Probably not. Thus, just as you pay attention to skincare and exercise, you should also consider how to keep your brain healthy and active.
Perhaps many simply accept brain deterioration as a fact of life, a natural part of the aging process. While it’s true that there is a link between chronological age and brain size and cognition, the mechanisms and processes involved when it comes to molecular, tissue, and cellular aging still aren’t clear.
Research, however, does show that there are ways to prevent or minimize the effects of growing older on brain function. Read on to find out how to improve brain health—and unlock your very own Fountain of Youth.
- Get proper nutrition.
In an interview with Neurology Times, Pauline Croll, MSc, lead author of a study on the link between diet and brain health, stated that their study “suggests that a healthy diet may protect the brain from decreasing any faster than it already does. In other words, unhealthy eating may accelerate brain shrinkage and as such possible increase the risk of cognitive decline and ultimately dementia.”
Eat a diet rich in whole foods and minimize your intake of processed foods so that you can get the nutrients your body and your brain need. If you feel that your diet isn’t well-rounded, you can get the right nutrients through supplements. Check Healthy Options for a range of organic supplements and vitamins.
Hate running on a treadmill? Keep in mind that anything that leaves you huffing and puffing counts! Exercise is said to stimulate the development of new brain cells in regions that are important to memory. So take those stairs, play a game of tag with your preschooler, or go for a brisk walk to the supermarket instead of going on that five-minute drive. Ideally, you should be moving for half an hour a day, five times a week.
Exercise also applies to your brain. Try challenging yourself with crossword puzzles or word games on your phone, answering a sudoku puzzle daily, or playing a game of chess with your significant other. Just as heavier loads can strengthen your muscles, these puzzles and games can help improve brain function.
- Reduce stress
Chronic stress can affect your memory centers, making it harder to learn and remember things. If you can’t reduce stress in your life, try stress coping mechanisms such as meditation or yoga.
- Don’t stop learning.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a higher level of education is associated with better brain function in advanced age. But that doesn’t mean you have to go get your PhD to stay young. Learning anything new can certainly help, whether it’s starting a new job, learning another language, or diving into a new hobby.
A researcher at the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre recommends learning to play a new instrument as it activates both hemispheres of the brain.
Neuroscientists have found that one of the worst things for your health is loneliness—it’s said to be even worse than having 15 cigarettes a day! A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry states that loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 65%. So make it a point to spend time with your loved ones, no matter how busy you get.
The human body is a well-oiled machine, so it follows that getting parts of it in tip-top shape will benefit other parts. According to Harvard Health Publishing, improving your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and your blood sugar can likewise improve your brain health.
Research published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal links cardiovascular health to brain health, stating: “Protective factors that reduce cardiovascular risk, namely regular exercise, a healthy diet, and low to moderate alcohol intake, seem to aid the ageing brain as does increased cognitive effort in the form of education or occupational attainment.
A healthy life both physically and mentally may be the best defense against the changes of an ageing brain.” So live a healthy lifestyle and a happy, healthy brain will follow!