The brain is arguably the most amazing organ in the body. This complex network of cells is responsible for the control of all the essential functions in the body, from digestion to keeping the heart beating. This spring of ideas and dreams is not immune to the effects of time, and can suffer damage as we live each day. As such, it is essential to care for and maintain the brain to keep it healthy.
Despite being very well protected, both by the immune system and the skull, the brain can still suffer damage and/or sickness, and advancing in age introduces potentially harmful changes to the body that may affect proper brain function. Some common factors that may cause damage to the brain include:
- Head injury – Heavy impact/trauma can injure the brain (causing e.g., contusions) and impair proper function
- Brain cancer
- Pre-existing (genetic) mental disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
Fortunately, maintaining a healthy brain has become much easier thanks to advances in medical technology, psychology, psychiatry and mental health, and greater interest in research on healthy brain activity. Living a healthy lifestyle is among the strongest foundations for staying healthy in mind and body, with the benefits carrying forward well into the golden years.
Let us take a look at some tips that both the young and old can employ to keep the mind sharp:
1. Keep your brain busy
By staying mentally active, brain cells remain stimulated and therefore, less likely to degrade from disuse. Improved processing speed, reasoning, and working memory are some factors linked to keeping your mid busy.
Expressing yourself creatively (through drawing, painting, writing and the like) is a great way to keep mentally busy. Next time you have to do some simple calculations, put away the calculator and grab a pen and paper. Playing games adds fun to keeping the brain busy, and can also help develop creativity and hand-eye coordination.
2. Keep your body busy
Staying physically active has direct benefits to brain health. During exercise, the brain releases hormones such as adrenaline and dopamine, which have lasting positive effects on the brain.
From keeping a regular exercise regimen, to swimming, to going for long leisurely walks, all these physical activities –and more- help bolster brain health.
3. Get enough proper rest
It is also important to rest, as the body, brain included, carries out repair and maintenance on itself during these periods. Quality rest is important for these healing processes to take place.
This means that one should try sleep at least seven continuous hours in a day, in a comfortable position, free from distractions like the computer, TV, or radio remaining on in the background.
4. Consume a healthy diet
Good nutrition through a balanced diet not only helps your body, but the mind too. Avoid frequently eating complex sugars and saturated fats, as well as processed foods. The type of foods these compounds come in may be tasty, but may take a long time for the body to break down, and use precious resources doing so.
A diet that promotes a healthy brain should include nutrient rich foods like:
- Whole grains
- Fruits and green, leafy vegetables
- Pulses (legumes, green grams, peas)
- Lean proteins such as chicken and fish –which also contains healthy oils
- Milk and dairy products (like yoghurt)
- Nuts and seeds, which contain beneficial plant-based oils
5. Stay safe
Although it may be impossible to predict accidents, take the best measures within your control to avoid physical injury. Drive safely, avoid construction sites, and wear safety equipment where available.
Injury to the body, such as the loss of a limb, can have long lasting psychological effects that negatively impact brain health in the long-term.
6. Abstain from alcohol and substance abuse
Several drugs and substances have a direct negative effect on the proper functioning of the brain, with their long term use causing irreparable damage to the brain. They may also cause indirect harm by overexerting the body and denying the brain resources it needs to function properly, such as cigarettes, which can clog blood vessels and restrict blood flow to the brain. Always check with your doctor before starting a new medication.
7. Build and maintain a healthy social lifestyle
Positively engaging with friends, family, peers and the society at large plays a major role in maintaining and promoting a healthy brain. A healthy social life has been shown to increase life expectancy, reduce stress and its associated risks –such as high blood pressure, as well as lower risks of dementia.
8. Continue learning
Learning challenges the brain and helps stimulate and develop connections between brain cells. Fortunately, learning something new is not restricted by age, and any area of interest can be pursued as a learning opportunity. These activities include:
- Enrolling in a course; online classes are common, with some being offered free
- Taking up gardening or farming
- Playing games with others –board games, puzzles, word games and the like
- Participating in community projects
- Playing a musical instrument
9. Take advantage of organizational tools and utilities
This is especially useful when promoting a healthy memory. Calendars, planners, maps and the like merge cognitive function and memory. Smartphones and computers have these utilities as inbuilt functions, as well as alarms and notifications to remind timings for activities.
Removing clutter from living and work spaces also promotes organization, removes distractions, allowing for focus on new activities and acquiring knowledge.
10. Consider medical treatment when necessary
Some mental conditions such as autism may be hereditary, and only manifest in advanced years. Identifying these conditions early and getting the proper medical attention for them in time could remove any negative symptoms they may have on one’s life as they grow older.
Even if the symptoms do manifest later in life, there is still an opportunity to mitigate their negative impact by seeking medical attention thanks to the many advances in brain health and development.
Remember, always talk to a health professional before starting a new exercise, fitness activity, or diet. For more information and tips for seniors looking to live a fuller and healthier life, visit us here on medicalalert.com. We provide medical alert systems to seniors looking to live independently while still being protected.