5 Things You Can Do to Help Keep Your Brain Healthy
No one can guarantee that you will not develop dementia. However, research shows that there may be things you can do to help keep your brain healthy and your memory sharp as your age.
1) Exercise Regularly and Stay Physically Active.
Accumulating evidence suggests that physical activity may be good for our brains as well as our hearts, waistlines, and ability to carry out activities of daily living. Studies have found associations between physical activity and improved cognitive skills or reduced AD risk. For example, investigators looked at the relationship of physical activity and AD risk in about 1,700 adults aged 65 years and older over a 6-year period. They found that the risk of AD was 35 to 40 percent lower in those who exercised for at least 15 minutes 3 or more times a week than in those who exercised fewer than 3 times a week.
Staying physically active is healthy for your heart and your brain. The brain needs oxygen and a healthy blood supply to work at its best. Thirty minutes of exercise five or more times a week is recommended. The exercise does not need to strenuous. Find something that you enjoy and can fit into your own lifestyle. Some ideas:
- Walk or bike instead of driving
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator
- Exercise with friends… walk and chat
- Play tennis or participate in a team sport
- Dancing can be healthy and fun
- Swimming is a great low-impact exercise
- Tai Chi or yoga can help improve balance and flexibility
- Take a class!
Managing your health and keeping your body healthy – especially your heart – can help help keep your brain healthy. Things you can do:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Stay on top of health conditions such as diabetes
- Quit smoking
2) Get Plenty of Sleep
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Impaired sleep has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that sleep is important in clearing beta-amyloid protiens associated with Alzheimer's out of the brain. Here are some things you can do to help get a good night's sleep.
Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling.
- Don't take a nap in the late afternoon or evening. Napping may keep you awake at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Find a relaxing way to wind down before bedtime each night. Try reading a book (not your phone or tabley), listen to music, or take in a bath.
- Don't watch TV or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from electronic screens may make it harder to fall asleep. Some programs, like horror movies, may keep you awake. If the news is upsetting, don't watch it at bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. A room that is too hot or cold interfers with falling asleep. Also, keep your bedroom as quiet as possible.
- Lower the lights as bedtime approaces.
- Exercise regularly every day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
- Avoid large meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeinated coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate can keep you awake.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.
3) Eat Healthy
What we eat may influence our risk for developing many conditions including Alzheimer’s or dementia. Incorporating a healthy diet into our lives is beneficial at any age.
- Eat a balanced diet with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants.
- Eat more of the foods found to be especially good for your brain. These include green leafy vegetables, blueberries, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Eat healthy fats found in nuts and certain fish, such as salmon or tuna. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may also be especially beneficial.
- Limit the amount of high fat, sugary or salty food you eat.
- Drink in moderation. Some research suggests that moderate amounts of red wine may contain healthy antioxidants.
4) Engage your brain
Exercising and challenging your brain is a great way to stay sharp. Find things that interest you and are fun. Some ideas:
- Do puzzles such as crosswords or number games
- Read books, magazines, newspapers
- Learn something new – a new language or new skill (e.g. cooking, knitting, playing an instrument, etc.)
- Try doing something in a different way (e.g. take a different route to work or try writing with your non-dominant hand)
Try these websites for some brain-challenging games:
5) Stay socially connected
People who regularly engage in social activities may be less vulnerable to depression, and some research has shown that social interaction may also help keep the brain vital and healthy. Find ways to maintain friendships and stay connected to others.
- Stay active in your faith community
- Volunteer for a local charity, school, or other cause
- Join a social club or a traveling group
- Maintain healthy relationships with friends and family