Can’t remember where you put your phone…again! Turns out that your body is not the only thing that changes as you grow old, your brain does too. As you age, the brain cells, also referred to as neurons, lose the connections between them that play a significant role in cognitive processes. These connections are called synapses. Mental decline is among the most feared consequences of getting older. Your memory is no longer as good as it used to be. However, it is not irreversible, and there are many ways you can improve your cognitive abilities, thus helping your brain stay young and active. Below are some tips on how you can keep your mind sharp even after the age of 30, 40, or 50 years.
1. Be physically active
Exercise does not only help with physical fitness, but it also keeps your mental health in top form. Increased weight gain around your middle in your 40s is an indicator that your brain may be starting to age rapidly and is losing volume. No matter how busy you are, make time to work out, either at the gym or home. Exercise stimulates the production of synapses between brain cells, thus promoting brain plasticity. Furthermore, exercising regularly aids in the release of hormones that trigger the growth of new nerve cells.
2. Eat healthy foods
Proper nutrition is as good for your brain as it is for your body. You need to maintain a healthy diet to keep your brain young. Some foods that improve the cognitive functioning of the brain as you age include; asparagus, avocados, Indian curry, and omelets.
More foods rich in antioxidants include; leafy greens(spinach and kale), plums, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, prunes, raisins, eggplant, corn, among others.
3. Challenge your brain
Even though our brains start to decline as early as when we are 30 years old, this process can be slowed by training and exercising the brain. Start by solving crossword and jigsaw puzzles, learning a new language, or play brain games whether electronic or toys. Games enhance your brain health by improving your memory and other skills as you strive to overcome a challenge. Look for games that stretch your thinking. Other ways to challenge your brain include;
- Brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand,
- Exploring a different genre of music than you usually listen to,
- Play word games to increase your vocabulary,
- Draw things from memory,
- Learn a new skill, etc.
Research indicates that people who continuously challenge their minds have considerably younger and more active brains. Such activities help in revitalizing your brain cells.
4. Avoid injuries to your head
Head injuries, even minor ones that do not result in concussions, can have adverse effects and might cause cognitive impairment. Protect your head at all times. Avoid any traumas, especially those that can cause loss of consciousness.
5. Build social networks
Research indicates that people who have strong social ties are at a lower risk of suffering from conditions such as dementia. Expand your social network by interacting with family and friends regularly.
6. Remain calm
As much as you need to be active to avoid cognitive decline, you also need to stay calm. You don’t need to learn that new language all the time or go to the gym the entire day. Allocate time to loosen up and have fun to give your brain cells a break.
7. Get quality sleep
Your brain is just like a computer, at some point it needs to restart to continue functioning properly. This is why sleeping is important for your mental health. During sleep, your brain clears out toxins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Surf the internet
Although it is not healthy to use the internet all the time, surfing the web has been shown to improve cognitive abilities. A study was done on both the people who use computers regularly and those who don’t reveal that those who use computers have more neural activity than those who don’t.
9. Take care of your emotions
Negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and exhaustion, may lead to cognitive impairment. Laughter, on the other hand, releases the ‘feel good’ chemical known as dopamine. Perform any activity that is pleasurable to your body and brain. Have sex, drink wine, sleep well, and avoid negative emotions to improve your mental health.
10. Take a genetic test
Some people are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease than others. Get an APOE test done to know your status. If you are at risk of getting the disease, then you can take measures to reduce the risk of developing it. These include; making better lifestyle choices by taking a healthy diet and exercising to improve your physical and mental health.
11. Prevent diabetes and control it
Studies have shown that people with Diabetes Type-2 are at a higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s. So if you do not have it, try to prevent it as early as possible. If you already have it, control it. Keep your blood sugar levels low and only take low-saturated fats.
12. Estrogen supplements
The estrogen hormone influences brain functions by enhancing synaptic plasticity, neurite growth, hippocampal neurogenesis, and long-term potentiation. As a woman approaches menopause, her estrogen levels go down hence affecting cognitive abilities. One should consider taking supplements to maintain it and improve memory.
13. Floss daily
One may wonder what the relationship between flossing and the brain is. Gum disease is caused by an infection that has byproducts that affect the arteries blocking them from delivering essential nutrients required by the brain. Flossing will help prevent impairment.
14. Be extra careful with meds
Older adults experience sleeping problems for many reasons such as joint pain, muscle aches, and stress. You could have to take medication to help you sleep. However, it is not okay to use sleep aids all the time, especially non-prescription ones. According to studies, these drugs may cause cognitive impairment by increasing the risk of confusion and memory lapses.
15. Improve your levels of blood sugar and cholesterol
People who have high levels of LDL cholesterol are at a higher risk of suffering from dementia.
Bump up on HDL cholesterol. Exercise and maintain a healthy diet help improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
16. Don’t use tobacco
Avoid any form of tobacco. Cigarette smoking leads to the shrinking of the brain. Also, nicotine prevents the formation of new brain cells.
17. Avoid Alcohol
Limit the amount of alcohol intake to about two drinks a day. Excessive alcohol drinking makes you more susceptible to dementia. Drink red wine; it is said to delay the occurrence of dementia.
It is inevitable that your brain will change as you age. It will shrink in volume. Your memory will be short, and you will start to forget things. However, you can use the above 20 ways to keep your brain young to avoid cognitive impairment in your later years.