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6 Ways to Support Brain Health as You Age

Like many people over 60, I sometimes lose my keys or forget the names of favorite films. When I do, it makes me wonder: Is this the beginning of cognitive decline? The answer is NO. Forgetfulness is normal at all ages and your genes are not your destiny. What is important is taking care of your brain in the best way possible.

Memory is fragile. There are plenty of effective tactics that support long-term cognitive health. Here are seven keys to a healthier brain.

#1: Move More

Movement is great for your brain. What is the single most important thing people can do to enhance their brain’s function and resiliency to disease, one word: Exercise? Being inactive is probably the most important risk factor in dementia, while staying fit can help strip if off.

It does not take much movement to make a difference. Start loving exercise, at least start walking for half an hour, 3 to 4 days a week. Or 1 hour a week of intense activity.

#2: Connect With Others

Having close relationships with humans you can count on is important to a happy, healthy life, and may help you live longer. When you are not surrounded by friends or family your brain can feel it. The feeling of loneliness or being isolated can lead to depression or develop dementia.

You can socialize by combining with other activities designed to get you moving such as learning, taking a walk with a friend, joining a team sport, or volunteering. Socializing with more diverse people or people of different generations can also be a plus. Staying connected virtually like zoom meetings, facetime, and email can also be helpful.

#3: Eat Well

What is good is for the heart is good for the brain. An epidemiologist and founding member of the Global Council on Brain Health, Martha Claire Morris’s work recommends a Mediterranean diet with rich in vegetables, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, and olive oil.

  • That diet may not be available for everyone, though. Here is some general diet advice:

  • Limit intake of refined sugar

  • Hydrate daily

  • Add more Omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources, not pills

  • Reduce food portions

  • Helpful to have healthy ready and prepared so when you get hungry, you choose a healthy option instead of junk food

#4: Learn New Things

Learning something new like a traditional language, learning in a class, playing brain games, etc. Aiming to challenge your mind throughout your life is more protective than a formal degree. Ask yourself and brain am I to old for that?

Finding purpose in life can be good for the brain, essentially if it involves contact with people of different generations or challenges. Research suggests that people with a sense of purpose have reduced risk of suffering the harmful effects of dementia, even if their brain contains Alzheimer’s signs probably because having a sense of purpose inspires them to take better care of themselves.

#5: Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your brain functions, as well as your ability to learn and remember new knowledge. Sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours. Sleep is important to store memories.

There is a lot of people in world who have trouble getting a good night sleep. There are book to remind them of sleep hygiene that can help. In additions, there is the importance of resting, taking a break, daytime naps, and going for a walk in nature or meditations.

To reduce tension, do something that you can hit that reset button. You might want to do some community volunteering, take breaks from personal email, social media, and multi-tasking.

#6: Manage Tension Levels

Symptoms of tension can take many forms. The first step toward reducing tension is learning what your triggers are. If you know what pushes your buttons, then avoid it. But there are stresses we must accept, so we must change our reactions to them. Tension can also link to depression, which could increase the risk of dementia.

Here are some steps on how to reduce or manage tension:

  • Relaxation Techniques - These are activities that trigger the relaxation response, a physiological change that can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and tension hormones. You can achieve this with activities such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - The basic idea is to change unhealthy thinking and this can lead to changing your emotions. A CBT therapist will help you identify negative thoughts and learn to automatically replace it with healthy and positive thoughts.

  • Goal Setting - When people set goals for themselves, they have a positive sense of commitment, feel they are in control, and are optimistic. Effective strategies to consider include setting goals in your career, therapy relationships, creativity, exercise, health and of course, CBD. 

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