The brain, just like the body, needs exercise as well as periods of rest. And just as you wouldn’t do just one exercise to keep you physically trim and fit, the same is true with keeping mentally alert and on top of your game. Variety is key.
But always remember: use it or lose it!
10 top tips for a healthy brain as you get older:
All too often we assume that mental prowess dims with age. But a recent study from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Human Genetic Research demonstrated that getting older does not necessarily mean losing one’s brain power: we all peak at different times, with many of us reaching the height of our powers in our 60s, 70s and even beyond.
Now, specialist advice website www.myageingparent.com has published the 10 simple rules we should all follow to keep us in peak condition – whatever our age.
Says the site’s MD, Deborah Stone, “The brain, just like the body, needs exercise as well as periods of rest. And just as you wouldn’t do just one exercise to keep you physically trim and fit, the same is true with keeping mentally alert and on top of your game. Variety is key. But always remember: use it or lose it!”
1. Challenge yourself. It’s all too easy to remain in your comfort zone, but learning a new skill, language or musical instrument will not only stimulate the little grey cells but enrich your life too.
2. Do something different: Everyday routines drain our brains, so change things about. From the routes you take to the shops or work to what you cook for dinner, the changes you make can be big or small, but encourage yourself to step away from the norm.
3. Learn to relax. Although it is important to challenge yourself, you must also take time to refresh and unwind. Our brains require time to process information deeply in order to learn from our daily experiences. It may sound obvious, but relaxing reduces stress and the over-production of brain chemicals and hormones, such as cortisol, which in large quantities can negatively affect parts of the brain.
4. Turn on and turn it up! Watching too much TV can dull brain programming. Instead why not put on your favourite music playlist, turn the volume up and really listen to it rather than just have it as background sound. Research shows that music can lower stress hormones which impede memory and increase feelings of well-being.
5. Reorganise your environment. More mess leads to more stress! Revamp your home or workplace by de-cluttering and provide mental space for creativity and renewal.
6. Enjoy a lie-in: Research shows that when you’re persistently sleep-deprived, your body doesn’t have the time to build proteins, which can damage your brain. So go to bed early and, once a week, give yourself a treat and stay in bed for an extra hour or so.
7. Use your weaker hand: When was the last time you tried to write, draw or even stir your tea with your weaker hand? Doing day-to-day activities with your ‘other’ hand can drive your brain to make positive changes, as it requires the brain to pay close attention to a normally unconscious behaviour.
8. Being physically active helps too! Exercise can improve our energy levels and immune system, as well as our sense of wellbeing, sleep, and brain health. Again, variety can be key, and taking up a new activity – be it yoga, swimming, Nordic walking or kick boxing – is invigorating and pushes us to learn new disciplines. Nervous about something new? Take a friend along to encourage you and so you can both make changes in your life.
9. Ditch the caffeine and switch to water: although coffee or tea will help you an immediate boost, too many cups can be harmful for your brain. Sipping water can be remarkably helpful when your energy levels are ebbing or your concentration is starting to dip.
10. Finally, just in case this has all sounded a bit serious so far, the tenth tip is to simply this: “have fun”. Socialising and spending happy time with friends and family enables the sharing of experiences, challenges, emotions, trust, and understanding. Research shows that people with five or more regular social ties halved their risk of cognitive decline compared to those with no social ties.
Got all that? Then now’s the time to enter Mastermind or Britain 2016!
You can find out more on HERE