Aging is an inevitability. And as we age, we tend to notice the side effects that are most obvious. Whether it’s the development of fine lines or gravity taking its toll, it’s relatively easy to see some of the impacts of aging. And, we are often reminded of the importance of turning to exercise to keep our hearts and bodies healthy when we head to the doctor for annual physicals. But when it comes to caring for yourself as you grow older, do you also think about how to keep your brain in tip-top shape?
Keeping your brain healthy and strong as you age is just as critical to your well-being as taking care of the rest of your body. When you “exercise” your brain, you can help lessen your risk for cognitive decline, including illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Here are five key tips that can help keep your brain and body healthy, and help reduce your risk of cognitive decline:
- Engage in regular physical activity: Aerobic exercise that elevates your heartrate has been shown to be incredibly beneficial when it comes to preventing development of dementia, or slowing down its course. Walking is also a great form of physical activity to boost cognition in adults 65 and older. Always make sure to consult your doctor before beginning a new workout regimen.
- Make time for a mental workout, too: Studies show that people who engage in new hobbies, tackle mental games and puzzles, or learn new things may benefit when it comes to maintaining their cognitive capabilities as they age. Want to try giving your brain a workout? Take a different route to a location you frequent, read a book aloud instead of with your eyes, or try eating with your non-dominant hand or with chopsticks. Making these little changes can give your brain a challenge and help build new neuronal connections.
- Eat well – for your waistline and for your brain: Recent research suggests that diets like the Mediterranean diet that emphasize eating whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein like seafood, and healthy fats can reduce your risk of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
- Hit the hay: Sleep is critical for both your body and brain. Not getting proper sleep can interfere with your thinking, memory, and overall functioning. While studies do not indicate a direct relationship between sleep and the development of dementia, prioritizing sleep as part of your efforts to stave off dementia is good practice.
- Slow things down with yoga and meditation: Both yoga and meditation require patience and focus. Practicing these has been shown to improve your working memory, brain function, and cognitive health. Try focusing on the here and now to help relieve stress and anxiety.
Your brain plays a critical role in every area of your life, from learning, working, and playing, to personality and memory. Incorporating these strategies into your lifestyle can go a long way toward keeping your brain healthy and reducing risk of cognitive decline in the future.
Always make sure to consult your doctor when making any changes to your health or care plan.