As we age, it's normal to experience changes to our brains, as we do our bodies. However, just like we exercise and eat well to keep our bodies healthy, there are things we can do to keep our brains sharp and strong. Research has found certain habits can help slow memory decline and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Here are five tips and habits to prioritize to help maintain your cognitive health:
While exercise has many known benefits, one of the lesser-known is its link to cognitive health. Research has shown that people who are physically active are less likely to experience decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
This is because exercise releases antioxidants that can protect against inflammation associated with degenerative brain diseases. Even by walking for 20 minutes several times a week, you can increase your motor ability and improve cognitive function. Aim to practice moderate aerobic activity (whether that be walking, running, swimming, biking, tennis, etc.) several times per week for 30-60 minutes.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to brain function. It is believed that sleep helps clear abnormal proteins in your brain and consolidates memories, which boosts your overall memory and brain health. It is important that you try to get seven to eight consecutive hours of sleep per night, as opposed to fragmented shorter increments.
3. Reduce Stress
Stress has been shown to change the brain, affect memory and increase risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. Try to relieve stress by practicing relaxation techniques like journaling, mindfulness, and gratitude. Other stress relief activities, such as exercise and socializing, have also been linked to better cognitive function.
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4. Stay Mentally Active
Staying mentally active by playing games or learning new things can stimulate the brain and increase neural connections that support sensory, motor, and cognitive skills.
Games that challenge your working memory and agility, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku, are great ways to stimulate your brain. Several studies indicate that taking on hobbies and learning new skills that are cognitively demanding, like learning a new language, improve memory, and benefit the brain as well.
5. Remain Socially Active
Studies have shown that solitary confinement is linked to brain atrophy, so remaining socially active may have the opposite effect and strengthen the health of your brain. Social interaction also helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Though it's been difficult over the past few years, remaining socially active, whether it be with phone calls, Zoom calls, or in-person social meet-ups, can benefit your mind and overall well-being.