5 Ways to Prevent Cognitive Decline
Keeping those neurons firing !
“Whenever I think of something but can't think of what it was I was thinking of, I can't stop thinking until I think I'm thinking of it again. I think I think too much.”
― Criss Jami
5 Ways to Prevent Cognitive Decline
What you do in your early adult years can have major repercussions on the health of your brain. Making good lifestyle choices early on can prevent your cognitive abilities from declining as you age. Staying away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking can make a difference.
While sadly, there’s still no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are several ways to help slow down, maybe even reverse, its symptoms by engaging in brain-healthy activities that protect the brain and urge brain cells to become more active and alert.
1. Stay socially active
There’s no denying how fun it is doing activities with your friends, or even going to new places and meeting new people. We are social creatures. When you connect with others, even through a simple smile or handshake, your brain releases the happy hormone known as oxytocin. This elevates your mood, reduces stress and boosts cognitive functions.
2. Step outside your comfort zone
As we age, we become stuck in a certain routine. Adults don’t like trying new things, in general, which could be a reason why our brains start shrinking as we age. As kids, we always enjoyed trying new activities and doing things we’ve never done before, but as we grow older, trying new things makes us more uncomfortable. We fear rejection and embarrassment, which reduces brain stimulation and increases cognitive decline.
3. Exercise, eat, sleep
Regular exercise comes with many benefits; physical, emotional, and most importantly, mental. It can improve mental processing speed and memory while slowing down, even reversing cognitive impairment. And exercising doesn’t necessarily mean high-intensity, hours-on-end, rigorous movements. It could be a simple 30-minute walk, going for a swim, gardening, or doing yoga. The point is to keep your muscles engaged and your blood pumping for no less than half an hour.
Maintain a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, whole wheat and omega-3 fatty acids. Try to stay away from foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and trans fats. Studies show that there are foods that improve brain health are avocado, olive oil, spices such as turmeric, curry and ginger, nuts and berries since they’re rich in phytochemicals which are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They promote good health and can slow the decline in memory function by aiding the metabolism process of glucose in the brain. It also boosts cognitive signals. Drinking 2 and a half cups of blueberry juice or concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks consecutively has proven to prevent, even reverse, cognitive impairment and neuronal functioning.
A diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables is another heart-healthy choice that also may help protect cognitive health.
Omega-3 fatty acids also are good for the heart. Most research showing a possible benefit for cognitive health uses fish consumption as a yardstick for the amount of omega-3 fatty acids eaten.
We all should be getting, on average, 8 hours of quality sleep each night. If you get less than 7 hours of sleep at night, that could increase your risk of cognitive decline in the long run. What you do in your early adulthood years can have a serious effect on your brain health as you age - it’s all connected. A review of observational studies carried out in 2014 states that “healthy sleep appears to play an important role in maintaining brain health with age, and may play a key role in [Alzheimer’s disease] prevention.”
4. Listen to music.
Music engages the right side of the brain, allowing you to focus more on what you’re doing rather than letting your mind wander. It also reduces stress and anxiety. What’s even interesting is that setting words to music improves memory and concentration skills. It also boosts brain processes.
5. Play games
Your brain needs exercise too to stay young and fit. Mental activities slow down cognitive decline and increase focus and concentration. And now there’s an endless array of mental puzzles to choose from. You can buy them at bookstores, and play them on your phone or tablet. Adding up your grocery bill in your head is a great way to keep your brain pumped and alert.
Reading, learning a new language or playing a musical instrument are great examples of activities that keep your brain operating at its best. Another great way to create new brain pathways is to try something new, like taking a different route to work or writing with your non-dominant hand. Your brain wants to be challenged, so why not give it what it wants?
A Final Note
While it’s a normal part of life to experience a slight decline in our mental abilities as we age, we can slow it down. It’s never too early to start, no matter where you are in life, so you can keep your brain healthy and age gracefully and enjoy every minute of it.