We’ve all experienced the occasional lapse in memory. You go into the kitchen but can’t remember what you wanted or forget someone’s name that you’ve known forever. Even though we call them “senior moments” those incidents can happen at any age and, for some people, they happen quite often.
As we get older, we tend to become more and more concerned with our memory and cognitive strength. Once we’re in our 60s and 70s, we really begin to see evidence of cognitive decline in the form of depression, dementia, anxiety and other cognitive issues. If we want to stave off memory lapses and confusion as long as possible, we need to exercise our brain to keep it sharp and focused.
Many factors affect our brain health:
- Diet—having poor nutrition has been linked to cognitive disease. Adopting a Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce that risk factor significantly.
- Education—studies have shown that people who achieved higher levels of education are less likely to develop dementia and cognitive disorders. Don’t let a lack of an actual degree deter you though. You can still gain the same benefits of education by taking classes, playing brain games, reading, and learning new skills.
- Physical well-being—getting regular exercise increases oxygen to our cells that nourish the brain and help develop connections between brain cells.
- Sleep—if you’re not getting enough good, quality sleep you’re likely suffering from some cognitive decline. Studies show people who are sleep-deprived score lower on cognitive functioning tests than those who get enough sleep.
- Smoking—the toxic ingredients contained in cigarettes have negative effects on brain function.
- Alcohol abuse—excessive use of alcohol has been linked to higher risk for dementia.
- Head injuries—this one should be fairly obvious. Injuries such as concussions lead to an increased level of cognitive decline and dementia.
- Blood pressure—high blood pressure has been linked to cognitive decline.
- Diabetes—if you have diabetes, you have a higher risk for dementia. However, if you can keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range, it lessens the risk.
- Being social—if you have strong social ties it strengthens your brain, lessening the chances of you suffering from depression, anxiety and dementia. For more information on how socialization affects the brain, read our blog post HERE.
Pretty much everything we do and everyone we interact with affects our brain either positively or negatively. It’s up to us to make the choices that will give our brain the workout it needs to stay healthy, long into old age. While there are no cures for actual brain disease such as Alzheimer’s there are many things we can do to keep our brains sharp at any age. Finding unique and different ways to stimulate your brain encourages new neural pathways to develop, helping us avoid the negative effects of aging brains.
To start your brain workouts, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips for brain strength:
- Change your environment. Putting yourself in an unfamiliar area will require new ways of thinking to navigate. Taking a vacation somewhere different encourages your brain to work hard in different ways. If you’re staying home, try a new grocery store or mall to encourage your brain to think about your environment in new ways.
- Exercise. A simple walk can help improve memory and cognition. According to Dr. Scott McGinnis of Harvard Medical School, when you walk the impact of your foot hitting the ground sends pressure through the arteries, increasing blood flow which results in a healthier brain. Try taking a hike at a nearby trail, taking up pickleball, walking the dog or even water aerobics.
- Read and Write. For many of us, the increase in technology means we don’t read as much as we used to. According to Neurology, reading can reduce the rate of memory decline by as much as 32%. Need help getting started? Read to your kids or grandkids, join a book club, or schedule reading time. Much like reading, writing also helps the brain stay strong, helps with communication skills and increases memory. It doesn’t matter what you write, because any expression of creativity boosts your brain. Try poetry or short stories, or even a handwritten letter to a friend. Those are all great ways to work out your brain.
- Get Mediterranean. As stated above, your diet affects your brain. Eating a diet rich in nuts, fish, olives, and other Mediterranean treats will keep your brain healthy by giving it the fats it needs to function properly. Blueberries have also been shown to be great for brain health. You can learn more about that by clicking HERE.
- Sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, not getting enough sleep leads to issues with memory and cognitive function. When we sleep our memories, and skills we’ve learned, move to permanent regions of the brain so we can recall them later. Having trouble sleeping? Using BrainTap Pro App’s Essentials Collection Sleep Deep bundle is a great way to get the necessary sleep to keep your brain sharp and focused.
- Play. Games are a great way to have fun and keep your brain active. Trying Sudoku, cards, scrabble, chess or any other game encourages your brain to practice strategies and use “muscle” it doesn’t normally use.
- Music. Music has been proven to help the brain build new neural pathways to help with memory. According to a 2017 study, listening to music helps your brain generate creative solutions to problems compared to silence. So turn up the music to boost your creativity and cognitive strength. Learning to play an instrument or dancing while listening to music boosts these results even more.
- Get a hobby. Learning a new skill or craft can stimulate your brain and helps relieve boredom from your daily routine. Try new things to find what interests you the most whether it’s painting, carpentry, cooking, knitting, gardening or a sport like tennis or golf. Any new activity stimulates the brain to think in new ways and staves off cognitive decline.
- Use Your Senses. The more senses you can engage while you’re doing an activity the more of your brain you’re using and strengthening. To give your brain a workout, bake cookies or try a new restaurant while paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes.
- Meditate. Daily meditation calms your body functions, slows your breathing, reduces stress and anxiety. It also helps increase memory and recall and increases your brain’s ability to process information. BrainTap is a proven leader in enhanced meditation technology. Our unique audio sessions are designed to improve brain function in just minutes a day even if you’ve never meditated before and with very little effort on your part. For more information on how BrainTap can help you begin a meditation practice, click HERE.
The bottom line is, no one wants to think about ourselves or our loved ones losing precious memories or experiencing the fear dementia can cause. Taking steps to work out your brain like any other muscle in your body is important to improve concentration, memory, and mental agility, no matter what age you are.