As we age, we start to notice little lapses in concentration, memory, and movement. We worry about dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disease stealing our memories from us. Older people are most susceptible to symptoms of dementia, depression, and anxiety. The good news is cognitive deficits can be prevented or alleviated by exercising our brains the way we exercise our bodies.
Neuroplasticity–or the brain’s power to make new connections when we learn something new–helps keep our brains sharp and preserve memories as we age. Challenging your brain with new information or new tasks has been shown to improve neuroplasticity.
Things that can affect brain health:How well we take care of ourselves physically. Exercise increases oxygen to our cells, which in turn nourishes the brain and increases connections between brain cells.
- How well we take care of our intellectual side. People who stay well-educated are less likely to develop cognitive decline or dementia. Playing games, reading, learning new skills or crafts can all help keep intellect strong.
- How well you take care of your stomach. There is a brain-gut connection present in our bodies and our diet directly affects how well our brains function. To learn more about how important diet is for your brain, visit our blog post on the Brain-Gut Connection.
- How well you sleep. When we are sleep deprived, we can’t focus and have brain fog. Long term lack of sleep has been shown to have negative effects on our aging brains. Getting good, restful sleep is key to a happy and healthy brain and gives our brains the time they need to detox and store memories for later.
- How well you look after your habits. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are detrimental to our brains. The ingredients in cigarettes are harmful to the body, and excessive alcohol use has been linked to dementia.
- How well you socialize. Strong social ties have been shown to have positive effects on brain health. Having friends you socialize with stimulates your brain with new information and new conversations so it’s important to maintain social contacts. For more information on the importance of being social to our health, check out our blog on staying social.
When you’re looking for ways to keep your brain active, you want to look for new and novel things. This gives your brain the chance to form new neural connections and strengthen existing connections. Strong neural bonds increase the chance of a strong and healthy brain no matter your age.If you’re not sure what brain activities are best to keep your brain strong and healthy, check out our favorite tips below:
- Dance it out. When you learn new dance steps your brain is activated. Music also calms your brain’s response to stress, so dancing is a great stress buster, which is great for brain health. You can dance in your living room to your favorite tunes or sign up for that line dancing class you’ve always wanted to take.
- Exercise. Any exercise you enjoy doing will increase blood flow to your brain, which increases oxygen to your brain, which makes your brain more efficient and your thoughts clearer and more focused. 20 minutes a day is all you need.
- Quiz yourself. Watching a trivia show like Jeopardy or going out to a trivia night will help your brain think on its feet, which encourages the growth of new neural connections. It also helps keep your memory active by recalling information quickly. Brain games such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles are also great ways to keep your brain sharp.
- Do something different. When you do the same things in the same order every day, your brain gets into a rut. It’s not learning anything new and it’s not forming new neural connections. Doing something different or out of the ordinary every day is a great way to encourage your brain to learn and grow.
- Reduce stress. Stress has negative effects on brain health and affects your memory. Take time each day to de-stress through activities like meditation, yoga, painting, gardening, or using your BrainTap. In just a few minutes a day you can calm and relax your body to allow your brain to do the work it needs to do.