Brain health is today’s hottest topic. Here are the top 10 things everyone should know about improving brain health- they might just surprise you!
Take a Walk. Getting off the couch and onto your feet is the best thing you can do for your brain! Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise (the kind where you can keep up but can’t keep up a conversation) boosts daily intellectual performance and significantly lowers the risk for dementia. Even walking at a vigorous pace at least 30 minutes a day 5-6 times a week will do the trick.
Lose that Spare Tire. Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy weight with a low ratio of “belly fat” can significantly lower the risk for a memory disorder. Stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet, maintain an appropriate weight, and balance your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Want to go that extra step? Try adding foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to your diet, such as fish and berries, as some studies suggest these may lower dementia risk.
Follow Doctor’s Orders. Staying on top of your medical care is key in addressing issues that affect memory. Managing chronic conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, can significantly reduce the risk for stroke and dementia. Also, taking care of medical issues such as hearing or vision loss can have tremendous impacts in your ability to learn new information, such as names. Find out if your medications may be making it harder for you to remember. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you might have.
Get Your Zzzzz’s. Lifestyle choices we make daily, such as how much sleep we get, how stressed we feel, to what risks we take (such as whether we use a helmet when we ride a bike or ski) impact our daily memory performance and brain health. Emotional distress – anxiety, feeling blue – also can lower our everyday ability and may even increase the risk for memory impairment. Get a good night’s sleep, avoid risky behaviors, and don’t ignore emotional upsets.
Play PacMan. As we age, we experience changes in our everyday intellectual skills. Those changes commonly affect our ability to stay focused, think quickly, multitask, and learn new information (after all, learning new things require the previous three skills!). Want to stay sharp no matter what your age? Play games against the clock. Timed activities force you to pay attention, work fast, and think nimbly – you can’t beat the clock without doing so!
Learn How to Remember. While things such as timed brain games or eating a brain healthy diet certainly support better memory, you might need a bit of a boost when it comes to remembering things such as passwords, directions and – everyone’s favorite – names! Learn strategies to enhance your daily recall, such as making a connection between something you are learning (like the name “Florence”) and something you already know (such as the actress Florence Henderson). And don’t forget date books and “to-do” lists as these “memory tools” are essential for keeping track of the things you have to do but that aren’t worth memorizing.
Get Schooled. Staying intellectually engaged can significantly lower risks for memory impairment, in some cases by as much as 63%! Such challenges encourage brain plasticity and may offer protection against deterioration over time. Intellectual engagement offers opportunities to socialize and supports emotional well-being. Look for activities out of your comfort zone – if you like to read, try a pottery class. Also, look for little ways to “change up” your brain’s routine, such as brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand, or taking a new route to work.
Go Out with the Gang. Staying social has been shown to potentially cut your risk for memory impairment in half. That’s a pretty powerful reason to get away from the TV and go outdoors! Social situations offer great challenges for everyday thinking. Keeping up a conversation forces you to stay focused, think fast and be nimble with our neurons. Look for ways to get out informally with friends, as well as other ways to engage through your community or other resources.
Get a Job. Working or volunteering can improve your daily intellectual performance. You get a good brain workout on the job, which offers you the chance to engage both mentally and socially. What you may not know is that more complex work settings, such as those that require you to supervise others, have been associated with a reduced risk for dementia later in life. Working or volunteering might give you a sense of purpose, which researchers at Rush Medical Center in Chicago recently found may also protect from memory impairment.
Perfect the Power of Positive Thinking. If you want to remember more effectively, believe that you can! Self-perception can impact performance. If a baseball player thinks he’ll never hit it a homerun, chances are he never will. Similarly, if you are convinced your memory is lousy, it probably will be! Studies have shown that memory self-belief impacts how well you do on tests of memory ability. What you think about yourself can make a difference to how motivated you are to even try to remember something! Practice the power of positive thinking and believe in your memory.