Take charge of your Brain Health
There is a lot we can do to keep our brains healthy and potentially
prevent or lessen cognitive problems at different stages in our lives.
Screening of your brain health is important in the same way as a regular
check of your cholesterol level. Regular screening of your everyday thinking
skills allows you to track changes in your brain health over time. Screening
is also the first step to differentiating, for example, between memory
decline that is a normal part of aging and memory loss that may be part
of a medical condition, and which may warrant further consultation.
What can you do to take charge of your brain health?
#1 Nourish Your Noggin: Eat a Brain Healthy Diet
Research shows that well-balanced diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
(commonly found in fish), protein, antioxidants (such as folic acid), fruits
and vegetables, and vitamin B; that are low in trans fats; and which have
an appropriate level of carbohydrates - will help keep our brains healthy.
A diet that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as maintains
a healthy weight, is also good for our brains.
#2 Use It or Lose It: Stay Mentally Active
Those who use their minds may be less likely to lose cognitive function than
those who don't. Learning a new skill or language, completing the crossword
puzzle, taking educational courses, even learning to dance - all challenge
and help maintain the brain.
#3 Work Out for Your Wits: Exercise and Keep Fit
Exercise increases circulation and blood flow to the brain, improves coordination
skills, and helps stave off diseases and conditions that make you more prone
to dementia, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Those who exercise
have been found to be less likely to develop dementia later in life.
#4 Interact with Others: Stay Social
Socializing with friends, volunteering, traveling, and even participating in
favorite leisure activities helps to keep our minds active and healthy. Social
engagements also reduce stress - which has been proven to destroy brain cells
and detrimentally affect overall health.
#5 Rest for Restoration: Get Plenty of Sleep
Scientists are still trying to unlock all of the mysteries of sleep, but they
are starting to find that a lack of sleep can negatively impact brain health.
Getting sleep is a necessary piece of your brain fitness routine - so if you
aren't getting enough - find some time to catch some ZZZZZs.
#6 Unwind for Your Mind: Manage Your Stress
We have long known that stress can wreak havoc on our bodies - we now know
it can do the same to our minds. Many of our lives' daily stress can have a
cumulative effect on our brains - impacting its ability to remember and to
learn. So whether you prefer yoga or time with your kids, find ways to eliminate
stress from your life.
#7 Guard Your Gray Matter: Protect Your Head
A number of studies have found an association between head injury and dementia.
One study of World War II veterans found that those with a history of head
trauma were twice as likely to have Alzheimer's disease, and that the more
severe the head injury, the higher the risk. While scientists have a lot to
learn about this potential causal link, it is still a good idea to wear protective
head gear and seat belts and guard your gray matter.
#8 Understand Your Risk: Consider Your Genes
While scientists believe there is much to be done to maintain our cognitive
vitality, one factor that cannot be controlled is genetics. While you can't
change your genes yet, if your family history puts you at an increased risk
of dementia, maintaining your brain health may help slow onset and progression.
#9 Give Your Brain a Break: Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Smoking, heavy drinking and the use of recreational drugs may cause increased
risk of dementia and cognitive decline. So, do yourself a favor and kick the
nasty habit - your body and your brain will thank you.
#10 Think Overall Health: Control your Risk Factors
Researchers have found that those with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high
blood pressure, hypertension and other conditions, are more likely to develop
cognitive deficits than their healthier counterparts. Maintaining a healthy
weight, exercising, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and controlling
stress can help to stave off diseases and protect your brain from their deleterious
effects. Get regular check-ups and work with your doctor to control your risk
factors. Include a regular objective brain test in your overall wellness plan.
Dr Roy Sugarman