Simple steps that will help you look after your brain.
For a healthy life you need to look after your brain. Once you reach middle age, the emphasis on maintaining a healthy brain becomes more important, but it’s never too late to improve your brain health. The first and most important steps are to get your body and heart in order.
Scientific research suggests that leading a brain healthy life may reduce a person's risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and may also minimise the onset of dementia later in life.
Our brain should be considered as our most precious asset and making sure it is well nourished and looked after should be a priority for us all. Much of what can be done to improve brain health can be undertaken easily during everyday life. The five main steps to a healthy brain are:
Look after your heart
There is a connection between heart health and brain health. The risk of developing dementia increases as a result of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels.
Get physically active
Exercise gives our brains a healthy boost. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of brain cells and the connections between them and is associated with larger brain volume.
Challenge your brain
Challenging the brain with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them. This helps to give it the ability to cope better and keep working properly if any brain cells are damaged or die.
Have a healthy diet
What you eat can affect your brain, because it needs a range of nutrients to function properly. A healthy, balanced diet helps in maintaining brain health and may also be able to reduce the risk of dementia.
Get out and about – be sociable
Being sociable has benefits that reach far wider than improved cognitive functioning. Social activity increases mental stimulation and may contribute to building brain reserve, which then contributes to a lower dementia risk. Social activities that involve both mental and physical activity, such as dancing and team sports, provide even greater benefit for brain health and can even help to reduce depression.
Your brain’s fitness program doesn’t stop there. There are several strategies you can use to enhance and sharpen your mind, some of them are:
- Keep learning: through study, actively pursuing a new hobby, volunteering for a project, learning a new skill or a new language.
- Use all your senses: challenge your sense of smell, touch, sight and sound. The more senses you use when learning something, the more likely you are to remember.
- Believe in yourself: if you believe you can improve and put that into practice, you have a much better chance at keeping your mind sharp.
- Prioritise your brain use: not having to use mental energy to remember where you’ve put your keys or glasses means more brain power for remembering and concentrating on more important things in your life. Make good use of calendars, planners, diaries and lists and have a place for everything.
- Repeat what you want to know: when you hear something which you want to remember, write it down, say it out loud or repeat it three times in your head. It will help.
- Space it out: repetition is your most powerful ally when it comes to remembering things, but too much information too quickly is no good for anyone.
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