All about how to grow and increase your brain health and its function through improved anti-aging lifestyle habits, regular exercise and diet.
I am sure most of us have been touched at some time in our lives by a family member or close friend who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or some other associated brain disorder. Watching the transition from a normal and loving everyday type of person through the decline of the disease is a sad, frustrating and harrowing experience.
Our time here on this earth is greatly impacted by our brain health and fortunately modern science and brain research has started to uncover a number of anti-aging tips for brain health.
Things like how you manage stress and your exposure to stressful situations, how well you interact with others and socialize, how well you sleep, how much regular exercise you take part in, your lifestyle in general plus the quality of your diet are all crucial factors in determining your brain health now and in the future.
I found this article in Forbes about “How Exercise Makes Your Brain Grow” very interesting; here is a short extract: “Research into “neurogenesis”— the ability of certain brain areas to grow new brain cells — has recently taken an exciting turn. Not only has research discovered that we can foster new brain cell growth through exercise, but it may eventually be possible to “bottle” that benefit in prescription medication.”
So how else do you keep your brain young and in better health?
Here are 7 proven facts to help you with anti-ageing and achieving optimal brain health well into your later years.
1. Regular Moderate Exercise
In a Reader’s Digest Anti-Ageing article I came across recently, Professor of Psychology Mark McDaniel, PhD at Washington University in St. Louis said, “I would suggest a combined program of aerobics and weight training. Studies show the best outcomes for those engaged in both types of exercise.”
All the research points to getting your body moving, because the results indicate that those who exercise regularly have a decreased risk of coming down with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Exercise improves your memory, cardiovascular capacity, posture and balance and also reduces the odds of developing diabetes, heart disease and having a stroke.
All these factors are very important when it comes to slowing down the ageing process and adding some more quality life to your years.
Moderate regular exercise also causes chemical changes to take place in your brain that boost mood, thinking capacity and growth.
Another reason why regular exercise helps to improve your mood is because it increases the production of serotonin which is a critical neurotransmitter found in the brain which is associated with good health and mental well-being
So you can see why it is important to exercise and stay fit to have a healthy brain. Just another good reason to join the Active Ageing Movement.
Exercise can prolong your life, reduce the risk of heart disease, maximize sleep, help you lose weight, and improve your mood. The mind is closely linked to the body so the more exercise you get, the better your mind functions. Why not try a regular exercise program to develop a strong memory?
2. Reducing the Risks for Mental Health Conditions
Unfortunately, we cannot always avoid mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
However, there are some lifestyle habits we can address to reduce the risk factors for such diagnoses.
One big one is avoiding, where possible, and dealing with chronic stress as this will help reduce risks for of depression and anxiety conditions.
Additionally, learning healthy coping skills for dealing with life’s problems and your own emotions can help prevent going into a depressive spiral. One of the biggest considerations in this respect is the health of our relationships where we actually have more control than we might have in other life situations.
3. Lifestyle – Food and Nutrition
There is a lot of truth in the old adage, “you are what you eat.”
By making good food choices every day, you can substantially improve your brain health.
As you age your brain is subjected to stress that can be harmful to the health of your brain.
The process by which stress affects brain health is known as “oxidation,” which can be damaging to your overall brain health. Foods high in antioxidants help reduce the negative effects of oxidation.
Try eating a Mediterranean diet, which is high in nuts, olives and olive oil, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent way of achieving better brain health and it is also renowned as being the cause and effect when studying the longevity of people in the region.
4. Your Overall Medical Health
Good brain health starts with controlling your medical risks. Things such as smoking, high cholesterol, head trauma, depression, obesity, and diabetes all increase a person’s chances of developing dementia.
If you have regular medical check-ups and follow your family doctor’s advice, that means taking medications as prescribed and exercising, then you will be better both physically and mentally.
Your brain is much happier when you take good care of your medical health.
Make sure you avoid joining the growing obesity problem as people who are overweight have a greatly increased risk of diabetes which can lead to dementia.
TIP: Aim to improve balance exercises, strength training and aerobic exercises.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep and Relaxation
Your brain functions better when you are well rested. Sleep is energizing, improves your immune system, enhances your mood, and restarts your brain.
It can also decrease the development of beta-amyloid plaque which is linked to Alzheimer’s dementia.
Anyone who has had to stay awake for an extended period of time, or had a bad night’s sleep knows how much of an impact this has on mental functioning, focus and concentration. So imagine what it is doing to the rest of your body.
If you have trouble with sleeping well, try some meditation to manage your stress levels.
Meditation may also help to decrease the age-related loss of brain health. I can’t think of anything else that helps a person feel invigorated and ready to face the day than having a good night’s sleep. It really sharpens up your brain.
6. Mental Stimulation and Fitness
Better brain health depends on using your mind to its maximum ability. The quality of what you feed your brain is going to be in direct proportion to the result. Remember the old SISO (sh*t in sh*t out) from the early days of computing?
Those people who spend too much time in front of the TV set are not really stimulating their brain and exercising it in a way that promotes growth and brain health.
In fact, it’s something similar to muscle atrophy from lack of movement or what I call resting and rusting and that’s why it is so important that we all understand why strength training is so important as you start aging.
Getting enough mental exercise and stimulation is just as critical as physical exercise is to your brain health. Mental exercise can maximize your ability to promote brain cell growth and improve the functioning of your brain.
It can decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer’s dementia.
Just as a person exercises their muscles, they need to exercise their brain. There is something known as “brain reserve,” which helps the brain respond and adapt to mental changes and reduce the risk that your brain will sustain damage.
A person’s brain reserve starts when they are children and only gets stronger when the person gets older. People who persist in developing new interests and skills, engage in activities that are interesting and stimulating, partake in new accomplishments, and continue to learn new things that will maximize their brain reserve.
In recent times you will have seen plenty of strong medical advice for seniors to partake in mental activities such as crosswords, Sudoku and playing thinking games like chess and card games. All good forms of mental gymnastics.
Recently I came across a new site called CrazyGames and their mission is to discover whether gaming could be something that’s truly genuinely beneficial for our brains, and in particular for the elderly.
Now when they say gaming don’t be confused…….gaming, in this case, is not of the gambling variety. It is to do with playing computer games. You can also look at it as gaining some skills to combat your grand-kids.
Crazygames go on to say, “there’s a ton of contradicting content out there, so I wanted to shine a more positive light on gaming and how it can help, whilst including up-to-date scientific research on the effectiveness of brain games.”
You can find out more here: Brain Games for the Elderly: Benefits & What to Play
7. Social interaction
People who maintain an active social life and remain connected with family, friends and others also certainly tend to have better brain health.
Try to engage in conversation with others, spend time with others, and stay in touch with loved ones.
Those people who have the most social interaction enjoy better brain health.
And Just Before I Go:
This is another of my pet subjects because of its importance to our aging population and our quality of life as we age.
Better Brain Health is an area we can do something about without a lot of effort so I encourage you all to join the Active Aging Movement and stay well ahead of all these lifestyle diseases that are there, waiting in the wings to drag you down.
If you would like to learn more, then here is one of many good books both my beautiful wife Moyra I have read on the subject and we are more than happy to recommend it to all my readers:
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge M.D. and was featured on PBS’s “The Brain Fitness Program”.
If you are concerned about it being ‘too science based’, then don’t worry – it is a very easy book to digest. It’s a fascinating collection of stories about the incredible abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn. Well worth a read.
Hope this helps………and as always, don’t forget to help a friend – like and share.
Cheers – John, your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.