14 Ways to Improve Your Cognitive Health
It’s never too late to adopt key lifestyle habits to reduce cognitive decline, and with June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in the US, we’ve rounded up the top 14 ways to love your brain and improve cognitive health with the help of the Alzheimer’s Association.
1. Break a sweat
Many recent studies have found a link between various forms of physical exercise, including cardiovascular, weight-lifting, and yoga, and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, with a study published earlier this year even suggesting that working up a sweat through activities like dancing and gardening can still cut the risk of Alzheimer’s so get moving.
Exercise is important in reducing stress on the brain, increasing the flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain and ultimately protecting it against harmful spikes in sugar levels.
Some mental skills to dwindle around age 30, says author Clinton Wright, M.D.
But the participants in a study who did moderate-to-intense workouts like running or swimming experienced significantly less cognitive decline over a five-year period than people who were more sedentary. The active participants had better memories and were able to think faster.
In fact, exercising throughout your lifetime may be as good for your brain as turning back the clock 10 years, according to the researchers’ mathematical models.
One possible explanation: Physical activity boosts blood flow to your brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients and removing toxins at a greater rate, says Dr. Wright.
Exercise also fights diabetes, hypertension, and inflammation—conditions that could slowly damage your brain, he says.
2. Hit the books
Education and learning at any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia, with a 2015 Australian study finding that college courses for older adults could boost their cognitive skills and reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
3. Butt out
Many studies have shown an association with cigarette smoking and cognitive decline and dementia, with a 2013 Welsh study showing that smoking was one of the five main factors contributing to cognitive decline, making kicking the habit key.
4. Follow your heart
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and your brain just might follow.
5. Watch your head
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia, so wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
6. Eat well
Studies have shown eating a healthy and balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline, as can a Mediterranean diet rich in good fats such as olive oil, nuts, fish, and a diet that includes seafood and other foods high in omega-3.
Changing the intake of certain carbohydrates and drinking more water can result in better brain health. A diet filled with brain-healthy nutrients including low glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates, together with healthy fats and proteins is recommended.
7. Catch some Zzzs
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking, with recent studies showing that a regular sleeping pattern and around seven hours of shut-eye a night could help to stave off cognitive decline.
8. Take care of your mental health
Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
Other ways to take care of your mental health include regular exercise, staying social, and meditation.
9. Buddy up
Staying socially engaged may support brain health, with a 2014 meta-analysis by the University of Chicago showing that staying socially active is one of the key ways to live a longer and healthier life.
Taking up a social hobby that you enjoy and spending quality time with friends and family are great ways to feel healthier and happier.
Being around negative people will undeniably rub off on every individual. Removing negativity triggers chemical alterations to the brain that lead to more positive and energized thought. Taking stock of whom you spend time with and spending more time with positive people will keep your brain healthy and make you more productive and happy.
10. Stump yourself
Like returning to college, keeping yourself mentally challenged and your mind active can help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Build a piece of furniture, finish a jigsaw puzzle, do something artistic, or even play a computer game. Challenging your mind may have both short and long-term benefits for your brain.
Einstein once said that if people spent 15 minutes a day learning something new, in a year they would be an expert and in five they’d be a national expert. Learning new things breaks up routine and keeps the brain revitalized and stimulated.
Public Domain from pixabay
11. Hit the Beach
Have you ever spent a day at the beach and come back home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated? You may readily agree that the beach has a calming effect, but did you also know that being at the beach can have a dramatic effect on your health and well-being and can even change your brain.
As early as the 18th century doctors use to prescribe trips to the ocean to visit “bathing hospitals”. Bathing hospitals wee specially designed clinics that provided seawater bath treatments.
The prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with emotion and self-refection (as well as other functions) has been shown to be engaged when ocean sounds are played.
The peaceful feeling we get at the beach could be a result of molecular changes that are happening in our bodies. The ocean’s waves produce negative ions. Negative ions accelerate our bodies ability to absorb oxygen. They also balance levels of serotonin; a chemical produced by the body that is related to mood and stress. This is one reason why being at the beach have been linked, by scientists to positive mental energy and a general overall sense of health and well-being. It may even make us sleep better.
There is a stress hormone called cortisol. Some noises, such as traffic and airplane noise can cause this hormone to be released. When this hormone is release health problems such as ulcers and heart disease can occur. The calming noise of the ocean works to decrease cortisol levels. In this way the ocean can have a positive effect on our overall health and may prevent potential health problems.
12. Stay Busy
One of the best ways to keep your brain sharp as you get older may be to stay busy, according to new research. While scientists have previously recommended engaging in mentally challenging activities, a new study suggests that keeping a packed schedule may offer similar benefits.
In a survey of over 300 people participating in the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, study authors found that among adults over the age of 50, having a busy schedule was associated with better brain processing, improved memory, sharper reasoning and better vocabulary.
13. Spend Time in Nature
Through scientists’ research, they’ve found four main areas humans benefit from as a result of spending time in nature.
Physical benefits. “People tend to be more active when in nature. Also, people enjoy being physically active in nature more than indoors,” she says. Because of this, people are more likely to repeat the activity, which evidence has shown leads to lowered blood pressure, improved immune system function, and better endocrine system balance.
Mental benefits. “People who participate in group walks in nature have greater mental well-being, less depression, less stress,” says Warber. “There is also a large body of literature that shows better cognitive performance following a nature experience, and quicker recovery from stressful exposures.”
Emotional benefits. “Youth in camp settings, people in parks and people on group walks in nature experience more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions,” says Warber.
Spiritual benefits. Both youth and adults experience more transcendence, serenity, and tranquility when they spend time in nature.
14. There is no 14
For those of you who are superstitious, it just didn’t seem right to have a special report of 13 of anything. Just playing it safe.
We hope this information proves helpful.