Ten ways to a better brain

Nobody wants to get dementia, but until the condition is fully understood, you can keep your brain sharper for longer with these 10 helpful hints.

Get your groove on
Breaking a sweat won’t just leave you looking a million dollars (after a hot shower, that is) – exercising is one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy. Exercise helps to maintain good blood flow to the brain. Doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, running, gardening, cycling, tai chi or yoga per day is a great way to keep your mind fighting fit.

You are what you eat
What you eat can impact on your brain function quite significantly. The best diet for your brain is one which is high in nutrients and low in cholesterol and fat. It is also important to monitor your sugar intake, as diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Try to eat more dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, as these are higher in natural antioxidant levels.

Have a chin-wag
Becoming a social butterfly can help your brain in a number of ways. Remaining social keeps your brain active by opening you up to conversations and new ideas, plus having a functional social circle, no matter how large or small, is an important part of staying happy and healthy.

The eternal student
One of the best ways to keep your mind young is to keep learning. The best activities to undertake are those which are ‘novel and complex’ to the individual. In other words, learn something which is entirely new to you and which takes some effort to get your head around. Using your brain is like exercising a muscle – the harder you make it work, the stronger it gets.

Don’t smoke
Smoking increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. One of the surest ways to damage your brain is to suffer from a brain tumour, a stroke, or to deprive your brain of oxygen during a heart attack. Quitting smoking at any point can improve your health, no matter how long you have had the habit, so why not make this year the year you give it away?

Mind your mind
Getting in touch with your spirituality can have a positive effect on your health, both mental and physical. Meditation, yoga, relaxation and prayer have all been shown to improve happiness and wellbeing, as well as helping to keep your mind healthy.

What is your purpose?
Your brain thrives on constant learning and activity, so entering into a sedentary retirement can be the quickest way to slow your brain down. Make sure you keep your sense of purpose during retirement by volunteering, learning a new skill, travelling or joining a community organisation. Anything which brings structure and new ideas into your day (a well-organised television-watching schedule does not count) is ideal.

Laughter is the best medicine
Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not the only afflictions of the mind. Depression, chronic stress or simply feeling sad and lethargic can be just as detrimental to your mental health. Stay connected to friends and family and keep doing the things that you love. If you just can’t get yourself out of a rut, you can always visit your GP to discuss talking to a mental health professional to get some pointers on how to improve your emotional wellbeing.

Maintain financial stability
Research has shown that having a little extra money in retirement contributes to better health. Whether this is because you have access to better health care or simply because you are not worrying about money is unknown, but either way it might be worth avoiding the occasional splurge and, instead, putting some aside for your peace of mind.

Avoid alcohol
The occasional glass of wine with dinner is probably okay, but alcohol is high in calories and overconsumption has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Buying alcohol is also an expensive investment with no financial benefit, so enjoy it as a treat rather than as an everyday consumption.

If you have a great tip for keeping your mind active and healthy, why not share it with your fellow members in the comments below?