When it comes to your brain health, it’s never just one thing that can have a positive or negative impact. There are a lot of different factors that can play into brain function and cognitive ability. Genetics, physical health, lifestyle, stress, and even diet all play vital parts in our overall brain health.
As such, it’s important to educate yourself on how to maintain brain health. Being aware of early warning signs can help you catch and address issues before they arise or get too serious, helping you keep your mind sharp and functioning well. Here are a few valuable things to remember.
Let’s get physical
We all know how important physical activity is for our bodies and general health. It keeps our muscles, bones, and ligaments in the best possible condition, helping us stay fit and mobile. It also helps prevent injuries and disease. But did you know that physical activity is also good for your brain?
More and more studies show that physical exercise can have several positive impacts on the brain. From increasing metabolism within the brain itself (which may reduce chances of Alzheimer’s), to engaging brain networks that maintain old connections while helping create new ones, as well as enhancing the regions of the brain vital to learning and memory.
Current guidelines recommend a minimum of two and a half hours of exercise per week (though about 45 minutes/day is ideal), which of course can vary depending on your capacities. Talk with your healthcare professional and decide what works best for you. Walks with friends, family, or a pet are a great option — or swimming at the local pool, yoga, pickleball, whatever it is you enjoy, are all great ways to keep your mind and body fit. Don’t forget to start slow and take safety precautions so you can avoid any injuries.
There’s no avoiding stress. It’s a part of all our lives and comes from a variety of sources. While you may not be able to avoid stress completely — there are ways of managing it.
Chronic stress can lead to adverse effects on your brain health. It can lead to anxiety, which can have a severe negative impact on your day-to-day life. Stress and anxiety can affect sleep, appetite, the immune system, and more. It is also known to have adverse repercussions on memory and cognitive function, as well as escalating the risk for Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and mental health disorders like depression.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage stress. Journaling is a popular one, as is exercise, meditation and mindfulness exercises, or enjoying simple comforts like reading a book, catching up with a friend or a cup of tea. Find the stress relievers that work best for you, and make them a daily part of your life.
You’ve likely heard the old saying, “...you are what you eat”. Well, it’s an old saying for a reason. The healthier your diet, the better your chances are of leading a long and healthy life, both physically and mentally. Not only will a healthy and nutritious diet make your body feel good, it’s good for your brain. A balanced diet can help keep your blood pressure level down as well.
Studies have shown that a healthy diet can help resist the onset of Alzheimer’s, and the Mediterranean diet has also shown evidence of lowering your chances of getting dementia. A healthy diet can also maintain cognition, so it works double time.
Exercise your brain
The brain is a muscle, and, like any other muscle, it must be exercised. Okay, well, half of this is true. Your brain is not, in fact, a muscle. It’s an organ. It does, however, need to be exercised like a muscle.
Brain teasers, exercises, and games have shown evidence of keeping your mind in tip-top shape. Doing so can not only help you maintain cognitive ability, it can help resist and avoid loss in function and capability. They can also help offset the potential for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Have you tried Wordle? Check it out! It's a quick and fun word game that you can place once per day.
If games aren’t your thing, don’t worry! There are a lot of ways to engage your mind in healthy and fun ways: reading, listening to music, crafts, creating art (playing music, painting, writing, etc.), socializing, doing puzzles, and much more. Whatever your favorite way is to exercise your mind, do it regularly and often.
Your mind is one of the most important things you possess. It’s a vital part of your overall health and wellbeing. Taking care of it is a great way to take preventative measures against brain and mental health illnesses and disorders. And as with most healthy habits, a multi-faceted approach is the best way to manage your brain health. There isn’t any one thing that will keep your brain healthy and thriving, but like your brain, its health is dependent upon a lot of little things working in concert that create a robust and capable mind as we age.