Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
According to Harvard Health, mental decline is one of the most feared consequences of aging. In fact, in a survey done by the Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of people worldwide believe that Alzheimer’s is an inevitable part of aging, a worry second only to getting cancer. While brain function and mental health can decline as you age, it is not inevitable. The good news is that there is much more information available than there used to be and research shows that there are many ways to keep your brain active, engaged, and healthy throughout your lifetime. As part of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we are going to discuss some simple habits you can introduce into your life now to keep your brain sharp and healthy!
Maintaining Healthy Brain Function
- Learn Something New Everyday: No matter what age you are, learning something new everyday is a great goal. Do independent research, go to a museum, read a book, talk to a stranger, take a class, etc. No matter how you go about it, learning builds up your cognitive reserves and keeps your brain sharp.
- Challenge Yourself: Challenging yourself gets you out of your comfort zone and helps keep the mind young. So, try something new, travel to a new country, pick up a new hobby, or whatever seems exciting and challenging to you.
- Be Social: Humans need social interaction for a variety of reasons. Studies show having a strong social network leads to a lower blood pressure, a longer life expectancy, and even a lower risk of dementia. In addition, interacting with others gives your brain a workout and improves your mental health.
- Stay Active: Physical exercise has a wide range of health benefits, including improved brain health. Exercising increases the number of blood vessels that transport oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought and increases the development of new nerve cells. This all leads to a more efficient and adaptive brain.
- Quit Smoking: Evidence shows that smoking significantly increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking, or never starting, can reduce that risk as well as improve your overall health.
- Protect Your Brain: Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Get Plenty of Sleep: Your brain needs 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night in order to maintain proper brain function.If we sleep too little, we become unable to process what we’ve learned during the day and we have more trouble remembering it in the future. If this cycle of little sleep continues, you have an increased risk of cognitive impairment and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Additional Brain Function Tips
Depending on your age right now, retirement may be a long ways down the road or right around the corner. One of the best tips from the authors of Ageless Brain: Think Faster, Remember More, and Stay Sharper by Lowering Your Brain Age, is “retire to something, not from something.” While many people think retirement is paradise, especially early retirement, it can be harmful to your brain. This is often because one’s job is the most mentally stimulating part of their life.
So, start making a plan now for your retirement. Will you: Volunteer more? Join a club? Focus on learning a new skill or participating in a new hobby? Travel the United States in an RV? Visit new countries? Without a plan, retirement can quickly lead to boredom and isolation, which can cause a rapid decline in your brain health. The goal should be to have something exciting and mentally stimulating to look forward to during retirement.
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