Most of us know the importance of exercise and healthy eating habits to promote heart health, but do you know that nutrition and lifestyle also impact the health of your brain? It is never too late to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life to protect your brain. The national Alzheimer’s Association recommends ten ways to help take care of your brain.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is not just a risk factor for lung cancer. It increases your risk for dementia. The good news is that if you quit smoking, your risk is reduced to levels comparable to people who have not smoked.
- Get adequate sleep. Not getting enough sleep not only increases your stress level, it can cause problems with memory and thinking. Turn off electronic devices and make getting sleep a priority. If you habitually have trouble sleeping, talk with your doctor about ways to improve your sleep.
- Engage in regular physical activity that increases your heart rate and blood flow. Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for cognitive decline.
- Wear a helmet when playing contact sports and when riding bicycles and any cycles that travel at speeds of 35 miles-per-hour or more. Wear a seat belt in vehicles. Seat belts and helmets help protect your brain in the event of an accident. Brain injuries can increase your risk of developing dementia.
- Challenge your mind with new things. Study to learn new information. Play games of strategy that require concentration. Learn a new hobby or build something.
- Stay socially engaged. Sharing activities with family and friends and staying active in community events supports a healthy brain.
- Take good care of your heart. Studies show that risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes also increase your risk of developing dementia.
- Safeguard your mental health. Research links depression with cognitive decline. The COVID-19 pandemic created serious mental health concerns for people of all ages due to stress and isolation. If you have symptoms of depression, seek help.
- Engage in lifelong learning. Take a class. Read a book. Attend a seminar. Learning and formal education are associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
- Eat for health. Consuming vegetables, especially cruciferous ones such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, cabbage, and kale can improve memory. Fruits and berries – especially dark ones such as blueberries and blackberries – contain anthocyanins and other flavonoids that support memory. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and nuts such as walnuts and almonds contain omega-3 fatty acids that support brain health. The spice turmeric contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants. Turmeric has been shown to lessen depression and help improve memory. The absorption of turmeric is improved when accompanied by black pepper. Turmeric may interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor before supplementing with turmeric.
Research shows that even if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, you can reduce your risk by adopting key lifestyle habits. The more healthy habits you combine into your normal routine, the greater the potential benefit for your mind and body.
Brooks, M. (2021). Poll Shows Worsening Impact of COVID on Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com
Moore, M. (2019). Four Types of Foods to Support Memory. Retrieved from: https://www.eatright.org
National Alzheimer’s Association (n.d.). Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented? Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org