When I was going through my undergraduate work, we were told that brain power peaked at about 30 years. We were also told that after 30, it was downhill from then on. Since that time there has been a lot of research done on taking care of the brain that have resulted in science-based suggestions of how we can enjoy lifelong brain health.
While your brain will naturally change as you grow older, you can protect your cognitive fitness at any age. In fact, research has found that your lifestyle plays a major role in how well you think, learn, and remember.
This is what we’ll be looking at today.
Societal Problems with Brain Health
The Global Brain Health Institute states that “According to the World Health Organization, by 2050 the number of people with dementia will more than triple—reaching 152 million.” According to the American Heart Association, failing brain health is a public health epidemic and their research shows that 3 out of 5 Americans will develop a brain disease in their lifetime.
In addition, according to the National Center for Biotechnical Information, technology is also negatively affecting us. They write, “Potential harmful effects of extensive screen time and technology use include heightened attention-deficit symptoms, impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep.”
As a result of these, and many other factors, there can be lots of issues with maintaining lifelong brain health.
What You Can Do About Brain Health
While many people take their brain health for granted, the quality of your life depends on how well you maintain it. By keeping your brain in top shape, you can continue to overcome obstacles, develop relationships, and complete your daily activities for your whole lifetime.
Here are some tips for developing lifelong brain health.
Maintaining Your Mental and Physical Health:
1. Make exercise part of your daily routine.
According to another article from the National Center for Biotechnical Information, “Study after study has now shown that the risk of contracting cardiovascular, metabolic and metastatic diseases is mitigated by exercise and a diet containing fruits and vegetables. However, it is not as well appreciated that exercise and a healthy diet also provide substantial benefits for brain function.” This is because physical activity delivers more oxygen to your brain while helping to form new neural connections.
So, to maintain lifelong brain health, exercise daily. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, as well as strength training.
2. Eat healthy.
Eating right can be a big factor in maintaining brain health. Studies suggest the MIND diet slows brain aging by almost 8 years and cuts your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. An article on Health.com states, “MIND combines aspects of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet to create an eating plan focused on brain health—namely the prevention of dementia and age-related cognitive decline.”
3. Get enough sleep.
According to Healthline.com, a lack of sleep “drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with a number of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.” But when you do get enough sleep, your memory and learning capacity grow stronger. You can think and respond faster and make fewer mistakes.
So, to optimize your brain health, go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble falling asleep on a regular basis or feel tired most days.
4. Stop smoking.
Smoking is bad for your cardiovascular system. This is something everyone probably knows by now. But tobacco affects more than your lungs.
Brain scans show that smoking thins your cerebral cortex, which is responsible for many important thought processes. If you smoke, make every effort to stop.
5. Get treatment for chronic conditions.
Your physical health issues impact your brain health. These issues include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
The best thing to do for chronic conditions is get regular screenings and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Stay in Touch:
1. Make plans with people you care about.
Everyone’s busy today and it can be easy to get so busy that you lose track of family and friends. Instead, block out time for family dinners, date nights, and weekend outings.
The problem with social isolation and loneliness is they are linked to poorer overall health, depression, and lead to an increased risk of early death. Studies have found that social ties help to slow the rate of memory decline and enhance many other mental and physical health outcomes.
2. Make kindness your mantra.
People who are kind to others feel more valued and connected. The act of being generous and warm will draw others to you. Volunteer in your community and brush up on your listening skills.
3. Use technology to stay in touch.
While there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, when social distancing or travel keep you apart, technology is a great alternative. You can use video calls and Facebook to stay in touch.
4. Ask others for help.
Healthy relationships are mutually supportive. Let others know your boundaries and when you need assistance.
1. Take time to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of intentional, nonjudgmental focus on the present moment. Staying present can help you relax because it takes your mind away from past disappointments and future worries. Relaxation reduces inflammation and helps your brain to work more efficiently.
Use mindfulness to savor the present moment. This will help you to let go of judgements and expectations while improving your brain health.
2. Take time and slow down.
This is another aspect of mindfulness, slowing down and paying attention to one thing at a time. No matter what you might think, multitasking is not your friend. It is also bad for your productivity. Another way to improve your brain health is to take a break from technology each day.
3. Do something that lets you explore your creativity.
Whether it’s drawing, painting, making pottery or music, creating art raises your serotonin levels and enhances your brain function. If you’re not sure what to do, experiment with different crafts and hobbies to find something you enjoy. Have fun and remember that the process can be beneficial to your brain health regardless of your skill level.
Gratitude has a number of benefits for both your physical and mental health. Recognizing and appreciating your blessings also makes you more resilient.
A simple method is to start a gratitude journal. You can also make a habit of thanking others. Try to look for the positive aspects of any situation. Give back to your community by donating your time and money.
Most people make a habit of talking themselves down. Make a commitment to lighten up on yourself. Listen to your self-talk and turn your inner dialogue into something compassionate and encouraging. Remember to give yourself credit for taking risks and trying new things.
Use These Tips to Help You Maintain Lifelong Brain Health
Use these tips to reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Keeping your brain healthy will help you to lead a longer and more rewarding life. It’s your brain, why not enjoy it for life?
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