Four Ways to Maintain a Healthy Brain
Emerging evidence suggests there are steps you can take to help keep your brain healthier as you age. These steps might also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
1. Stay physically active
Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or even require a major time commitment.
It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction. Aerobic exercise improves oxygen consumption, which benefits brain function; aerobic fitness has been found to reduce brain cell loss in elderly subjects.
2. Adopt a brain-healthy diet
Research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. A low fat, low cholesterol diet is advisable. And there is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells.
According to the most current research, a brain-healthy diet is one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol. Reduce your intake of foods high in fat and cholesterol. Increase your intake of protective foods. In general, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant levels. Cold water fish contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids: halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna. Some nuts can be a useful part of your diet; almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant.
3. Remain socially active
Research shows that people who are regularly engaged in social interaction
maintain their brain vitality. One study reported that leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia. In the study of 800 men and women aged 75 and older, those who were more physically active, more mentally active or more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia. And
those who combined these activities did even better.
4. Stay mentally active
Mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells. Mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain
active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells. So keep your brain active every day. Stay curious and involved. Read, write, work puzzles; take courses; try memory exercises.
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