For Brain Awareness Week, here is our simple guide to help keep your brain healthy, now and in the future.
According to a study by the Alzheimers Society in 2014, 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia — with that number set to rise to over 2 million by 2051. Brain diseases are clearly a significant issue for us all. And it’s not just dementia. Memory loss affects an even greater number of people, especially as we all move towards old age.
In recent years, drugs such as Biogen’s Aducanumab have offered sizeable hope in treating Alzheimers. But as the saying goes, prevention is often better than the cure. There are a number of easy to follow lifestyle changes we can make to help reduce the risk of old-age memory loss and Alzheimers. Here are 5 ways to keep your brain healthy.
1. Eat your greens
Leafy greens. There’s been a lot of hype in recent years about the benefits of these iron-rich vegetables. But the hype is not just media spin, it’s driven by empirical research. A 2017 report in Neurology journal concluded that having one source of leafy green vegetables each day is positively linked to slower age related cognitive decline. Your grandmother’s sage advice to eat your broccoli might just have been more prescient than you thought.
2. Stay fit and active
We all know that we need to keep active to stay healthy. The NHS advises us to do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. But cycling, walking and even dancing don’t just keep you looking trim, they keep your brain healthy. Exercise prevents diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and stroke — all of which contribute towards memory loss, and increase the risk of Alzheimers. Get out on your bike this weekend, or go for a walk — it could help you live a longer, more mentally engaged life.
3. Stimulate your brain
Whether you’re learning a new language, visiting museums, doing the crossword, or reading the latest edition of your favourite science journal, keeping your brain stimulated is vital to maintaining brain health. Studies have shown that mental decline is not inevitable. As the Northern Ireland health and wellbeing page suggests: “People who lead intellectually stimulating lives are more likely to be free of dementia conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.” Whichever way you want to be intellectually engaged, make time for learning, no matter what age you are.
One of the best ways to keep your brain healthy is to socialise. Whether it be with family or friends, studies have shown that regularly having positive interactions with other people can help to keep your mind fit and healthy. A study in the July 2008 edition of American Journal of Public Health analysed 2,249 Californian women. Those who maintained large social networks not only reduced the risk of dementia, but also delayed or prevented cognitive impairment. Who knew such an enjoyable thing could be so healthy?
One thing that’s trending more than leafy greens right now is mindfulness. And for good reason. Not everyone needs to be a Zen master, but taking time out to unwind is a really important factor in keeping your brain healthy. A study in 2016 by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center indicated that meditation plays a vital role in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. It also helps prevent it in the first place. Meditation reduces atrophy in the hippocampus, increases brainprotecting tissue, and increases cortical thickness and grey matter — which slow the ageing rate of the brain. Meditating might just be the easiest, most relaxing way to future proof your brain.
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