It’s official, more and more of us are living longer. Affording us all those extra years to do so many wonderful things… This is great news isn’t it? We are in exciting times. Technology will continue to move along at break neck speed opening up possibilities we can’t even imagine. Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will teach us whole new ways of looking at things. I’m even saving for my ticket to outer space!
Ageing has never been more exciting, which means it’s vital we do all we can to stay well, so as to enjoy all these amazing opportunities. So how do we keep our brain as healthy as possible? There are 7 answers to this question and it’s a good idea to do all of them.
7 tips to keep your brain healthy
- First, PHYSICAL EXERCISE is the number one thing to do for both physical and mental health. Research has shown that aerobic fitness, where we get more oxygen pumping around the body, can attenuate age-related decline in our mental health, such as executive functions e.g. decision making, problem solving attention etc. Going for a brisk walk each day will bring many rewards, but if you chose to do something more strenuous it’s a good idea to pop into to see your GP to get the all clear.
- Second on the list is MENTAL EXERCISE. Many people enjoy sudoku and crosswords, which is great, but to really work the brain we need to do something a little more challenging. Learning a new language is a great thing to do. Or how about learning a musical instrument? If however, you are already a musician try learning a difficult piece of music that takes you to the next level. Remember, we don’t necessarily have to be good at these things and it doesn’t matter if we learn slowly. The important thing is to try and always have FUN doing it.
- Third, feeling VALUED AND VALID . This is incredibly important. We all have a wealth of experience and knowledge, but as we get older we can sometimes feel that our contribution is not so important anymore. This is a big mistake. It is vital that we have a reason to get up in the morning and know that we have something of value to offer. Whether it’s charity work, voluntary work, mentoring or being in business, we always, always, always need to get out there and add value to others, which in turn will add to our self-esteem and self-worth.
- Fourth, a natural follow on from this is be SOCIABLE. It is no coincidence that solitary confinement is a form of torture. We need a community to belong to. Studies have shown that isolation is a slow killer and can exacerbate dementia. So join a club, start a group or sign up to ‘virtual’ chat rooms.
- Fifth, we all know about EATING WELL, but it’s never to be underestimated. A lack of vitamin B leads to a decline in our cognitive ability and deficiency in B6, B12, folic acid and zinc has been linked to dementia. The brain loves complex carbohydrates, lean protein, oily fish (omegas) and lots of colourful fruit and veg. In this category we must also remember to drink 2 litres of water a day. Dehydration symptoms can present themselves as forgetfulness and being a bit muddled. So get drinking.
- Sixth, MANAGE STRESS. First, keep an eye on blood pressure. Second, when we are in a stressful situation, cortisol the stress hormone is released and if this continues too long it is detrimental to our physical, emotional and mental health. Try saying NO, but in a kind way when you are feeling overwhelmed. Take time out by going for that walk, watching the rain fall on the window, having a long bath or laughing! What could be better than putting on a comedy programme on TV that really makes you belly laugh? Perfect medicine!
- Last but by no means least, SLEEP. Our sleep patterns change as we get older, so if you’re finding it hard to get a good nights sleep make sure you are not taking a nap too late in the afternoon. Naps should be taken just after lunch. Also as we get older messages of hunger are not so efficient, so try eating something before going to bed. A hot drink is helpful too.
If we do all these 7 tips, we will have done the best we can. Good luck and enjoy!