Want to improve your brain’s health, cognitive function, and lower your risk of developing dementia later in life? UCLA research, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2006, suggests that simple lifestyle changes could help.
Further research has established even more support for those findings. Here are three of those lifestyle changes that science states could boost your brain and preserve its health.
Physical activity is just as healthy for your brain as it is for the rest of your body. Studies have found that when laboratory animals exercise regularly, they develop new neurons. This may be because exercise increases cerebral blood flow, which could encourage neural growth. Plus, exercise can help you lose extra weight, which may also improve cognitive function.
If you’re not used to regular exercise, start small by taking daily walks. This can increase your life expectancy and reduce your risk of Alzheimer disease. Schedule time to exercise during the week, join a gym, or take a dance class. The important thing is that you find a type of physical movement you enjoy and can commit to. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep plays a vital role in brain health; it helps remove toxins and build memories. According to researchers, most adults should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period to help preserve brain health. This can be difficult for older adults, as sleep patterns can change with age, and many people may find it difficult to stay asleep during the night.
To help maintain your 7-8 hours of sleep, make sure you stick to a regular sleep routine. Get plenty of exposure to natural light during the day to keep sleep hormone production regular.
Check with your doctor if any medications you are taking may be interfering with your sleep. If you are experiencing sleep apnea or insomnia, make an appointment with your primary care provider to have these issues identified and treated before they cause too much sleep disruption.
Participate in mind-engaging activities.
Just like a muscle gets weaker without exercise, your brain can get weaker without mental stimulation. Learning new things, engaging in memory exercises, or trying a creative activity, such as drawing or music, can help keep your mind active. Formal learning, such as an in-person class or online class, is especially helpful.
In one study, older adults underwent a five-hour training program to improve either their inductive reasoning (a type of logical thinking that uses specific details to make generalizations) or spatial orientation (which involves physical balance). Two-thirds of the participants demonstrated improvement, and the ongoing effects continued up to seven years after the training.
Trying something new is the key to making your brain activities more effective. For example, playing crossword puzzles all the time or practicing the same song on a musical instrument is less effective than learning something completely new, or performing a task in a different way (such as taking a different route to work).
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