Brain Function and Mental Health
According to Harvard Health, mental decline is one of the most feared consequences of aging. While brain function and mental health can decline as you age, it is not inevitable. There are many ways to keep your brain active, engaged, and healthy throughout your lifetime. Since September is Heathy Aging Month, we are going to discuss some simple habits you can introduce into your life now to keep your brain young!
Keeping Your Brain Young!
- 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: According the editors of Prevention magazine and Julia VanTine, authors of Ageless Brain: Think Faster, Remember More, and Stay Sharper by Lowering Your Brain Age, “The comfort zone is where the brain turns to mush.” 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.
- Eat Mindfully: Focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and nuts, and less fatty meats, butter, sugar, salt, and processed foods. Research shows healthy, balanced nutrition improves brain function and can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
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? 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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