Your Brain Needs Exercise Too

As we get older, many of us are concerned with staying healthy. We eat right, watch our weight and try to get enough sleep.  But, what are we doing for our brain health? Are we even thinking about our brain health?  Even if your genetics do not have a history of brain disease, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, keeping your mind healthy can have benefits well into your golden years.

Here are 10 easy ways to keep your mind fit forever and boost your brain health now:

1) Get moving.  Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent compared with low activity levels, and physically active people tend to maintain better cognition and memory than inactive people. Most recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity.

2) Pump some iron.  Older women who participated in a yearlong weight-training program at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver did 13 percent better on tests of cognitive function than a group of women who did balance and toning exercises.

3) Seek out new skills. Learning spurs the growth of new brain cells. When you challenge the brain, you increase the number of brain cells and the number of connections between those cells, but it’s not enough to do the things you routinely do — like the daily crossword. You have to learn new things, like sudoku or a new form of bridge.

4) Say “Ohm”.  Meditation — which involves focusing one’s attention on sensations, feelings and state of mind — has been shown to reduce harmful stress hormones. After eight weeks of meditation, researchers took MRI scans of participants’ brains that showed the density of gray matter in the hippocampus increased significantly as compared.

5) Eat like you’re Greek.   A heart-friendly Mediterranean diet — fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and beans — reduced Alzheimer’s risk by 34 to 48 percent in studies conducted by Columbia University.  Omega-3 fatty acids in fish are very important for maintaining heart health and it is suspected these fats may be equally important for maintaining a healthy brain.

6) Spice it up. Your brain enjoys spices as much as your taste buds do. Herbs and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla are high in antioxidants, which may help build brainpower.

7) Find your purpose. Participants who approached life with clear intentions and goals at the start of the study were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the following seven years, researchers found.

8) Get a Social life. Having multiple social networks helps lower dementia risk, a 15-year study of older people from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute shows, providing emotional and mental stimulation, says Laura Fratiglioni, M.D., director of the institute’s Aging Research Center.

9) Reduce your risks. Chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension are often associated with dementia.  Diabetes, for example, roughly doubles the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Controlling these risk factors can slow the tide.

10) Check vitamin deficiencies.  Older adults don’t always get all the nutrients they need from foods, because of declines in digestive acids or because their medications interfere with absorption. That vitamin deficit — particularly vitamin B12 — can also affect brain vitality, research from Rush University Medical Center shows. Older adults at risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies had smaller brains and scored lowest on tests measuring thinking, reasoning and memory, researchers found.

Filed under: Health Tips for Seniors, Senior Health Care

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