You may not realize it, but your everyday habits can directly impact your ability to maintain your mental sharpness as you grow older.
Even individuals facing memory issues can boost their cognitive function by embracing positive lifestyle changes. Consider the following dos and don’ts to help you take proactive steps toward protecting and improving your brain’s health.
Love your brain with these healthy habits.
Do try a Mediterranean diet
Unlike the typical American diet, the Mediterranean one emphasizes eating less red meat and more plant-based foods, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats. Studies show that besides being good for heart health and helping prevent cancer and type 2 diabetes, this regimen also reduces the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Do engage in continuing education
If there’s an area of study that’s always interested you, but you’ve never had time for it, it’s never too late to explore it. Many colleges provide both in-class and online courses tailored for active adults, offering many opportunities to expand your knowledge and stimulate your brain.
Do exercise your brain
Like your muscles, your brain needs exercise to stay strong and avoid atrophy. Whether you love to do crossword or jigsaw puzzles, tackle brainteasers, or read a book, magazine, or newspaper, you’ll be doing your brain a favor by keeping it active and stimulated.
Do get enough sleep
Lack of sleep has been linked to cognitive impairment and challenges in clear thinking, in both the short term and the long term. To help improve/maintain your memory, critical thinking, and overall mental well-being, prioritize getting the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep per night. And make sure to address any conditions like sleep apnea or chronic insomnia so you can learn to better manage them before they leave a long-lasting impact.
Do learn new skills
Research shows that doing something you’ve never done before, whether that’s playing an instrument, painting, or learning a new language, engages your brain in different ways that are good for it. The motor skills needed to do unfamiliar activities can help change the structure of your brain to help it function better.
Do practice good dental hygiene
A growing body of evidence suggests deteriorating gum health can actually lead to a decline in cognitive function. This connection is attributed to oral bacteria entering the bloodstream, which can ultimately reach the brain. Tooth decay, gum disease, and bone loss are all contributing factors. To maintain good dental hygiene, schedule biannual dentist visits, brush twice a day, and always remember to floss!
Do stay socially engaged
A strong social life can reduce your likelihood of experiencing isolation, which can lead to depression, stress, and major contributors to memory loss. To help stave off this decline, spend time with individuals engaging in mutual interests. This can include attending events at your place of worship, getting involved with a philanthropic organization, joining a local bridge, canasta, or poker club, or even volunteering at your local pet shelter or food bank.
Now that you know what you should do, here are habits you should avoid.
Don’t consume sugary drinks
Recent research has established a connection between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and diminished cognitive functions in adults aged sixty and older. Watch out for beverages high in sugar like carbonated soft drinks, sweetened tea, and fruit juices, limiting how much you drink and how often. And don’t be fooled by energy and sports drinks—they can be just as high in sugar as the others.
Don’t drink too much
In addition to your sugar intake, it’s important to be mindful of how much alcohol you consume. Moderate drinking is typically defined as one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Nevertheless, it may still be better to exercise caution; excessive alcohol consumption can adversely affect your brain health, and impact speech, memory, judgment, and balance.
A Lancet medical journal review found that individuals who currently smoke have a 40 percent higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and a 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia compared to those who do not smoke. Naturally, quitting smoking can be effective in lowering these risks. After abstaining from smoking for nine years, your odds of having cognitive decline become comparable to those of someone who has never smoked.
Don’t focus on the negative
A pessimistic attitude and outlook on life have been associated with dementia in people over fifty-five years old. If you find yourself focusing on the negative, there are some simple steps you can take to promote a more positive mindset. Begin by acknowledging these gloomy thoughts and saying goodbye to them. Then list what you are grateful for, focusing on specific people and activities that bring you joy.
Keep your mind sharp as you age by nurturing it with a healthy lifestyle, regular mental stimulation, and proper self-care. Your brain is the only one you’ll ever have, so be sure to take care of it!