You probably already know the steps you need to take to maintain physical health—exercising, eating a healthy diet, and drinking plenty of water. But what about maintaining a healthy brain?
Scientists have proven a connection between brain health and bodily health. According to studies by the National Institutes of Health, adopting multiple healthy lifestyle habits such as participating in regular physical activity, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet helps lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Your brain health is intertwined with your physical health, and it’s an important part of your ability to perform everyday activities. Let’s explore what brain health is and how to maintain a healthy brain with your lifestyle habits.
What Does Brain Health Mean?
Brain health is how your brain functions across several different areas:
- Cognitive health refers to how well you learn, remember, and think.
- Motor function covers how you control your movements and balance.
- Emotional function consists of how well you’re able to interpret and respond to unpleasant and pleasant emotions.
- Tactile function refers to your ability to feel and respond to different sensations such as pain, pressure, and temperature.
The health of your brain can be affected by several different factors, including depression, anxiety, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and even aging. Some of these factors can’t be changed; however, there are steps that you can take that may make a long-term difference in your brain health.
How Do I Maintain a Healthy Brain?
Research shows that several different healthy lifestyle habits are connected to brain health. Adding some of the following activities to your daily lifestyle may improve your cognitive health, but remember that the following tips are informational only—make sure to reach out to your doctor for health tips tailored to your unique situation. And keep in mind that when you’re exploring how to maintain a healthy brain, even small changes can have a positive impact on your physical and cognitive health.
1. Keep your body active.
Staying physically active through household chores, exercise, or other activities provides several benefits to both physical and cognitive health. For example, it can improve your strength, energy, and balance. It can also prevent diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions, and it can improve your mood and reduce depression.
Studies have shown that physical activity helps the brain maintain network connections and make new ones, which is important for cognitive health. To implement more physical activity into your day, walking is a great way to get started. And if you choose to walk outside, you can stay active while getting an emotional boost from being in nature.
2. Keep your mind active.
Brain exercises and certain intellectual activities will keep the brain active and improve connectivity and brain function. In turn, this may protect the brain from degeneration due to age.
Staying engaged in activities that have a lot of personal meaning to you, such as volunteering or hobbies, helps you feel happier. These mentally stimulating activities keep your mind active and are fun to participate in.
Additionally, learning new skills and working through complex activities—such as puzzles, Sudoku, reading, or a board game—can improve thinking ability. These activities engage areas related to recall, reasoning, perception, and executive functioning, which is the ability to adapt in order to meet established goals.
3. Eat a healthy diet.
A healthy diet doesn’t just improve your physical health and reduce the risk of diabetes or heart disease—it also keeps your brain healthy. Research has shown that leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collards are rich in nutrients such as lutein, folate, beta-carotene, and vitamin K. The nutrients are all good for your brain and may help slow cognitive decline.
Fatty fish such as salmon, canned light tuna, cod, and pollock are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to lower levels of the beta-amyloid protein. This protein creates clumps in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. If you don’t like or are allergic to fish, other great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include vitamin supplements, walnuts, flaxseeds, and avocados.
Do you enjoy strawberries with breakfast? Feel free to have more of them! Berries are full of flavonoids, a natural plant pigment that also improves memory.
Do you enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea in the morning? It has more than just short-term concentration benefits. Research shows that people who consume tea or coffee have better mental function and that caffeine may help solidify new memories.
4. Take care of your overall health.
Taking care of your overall health is one of the most important things you can do to maintain cognitive function. The following regular checkups and choices should be on your to-do list:
- Visit your doctor regularly and talk with them about any health concerns you have to get ahead of developing health conditions.
- Get your recommended health screenings, such as bone density, blood pressure, cholesterol, and vision.
- Get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is vital for both physical and cognitive health because it boosts memory recall, improves mental fatigue, and assists with regulating metabolism.
- Limit your use of alcohol. As we age, our reaction to alcohol changes, and older adults may experience the effects of alcohol more strongly. This can increase the likelihood of car crashes or falls.
- Avoid smoking because it increases the risk of lung disease, heart attack, and stroke. No matter what age you quit smoking, it can improve your health.
5. Fall-proof your residence.
Walking outdoors regularly is a great way to improve your balance and prevent falls. It’s also essential to reduce your risk for brain injuries inside your residence by:
- Looking for and removing hazards that can cause a fall, including loose rugs, cords, and items cluttering walkways
- Ensuring there’s adequate lighting in pathways and staircases with overhead lighting, wall lighting, or even motion-activated lights that automatically turn on when you walk by them
- Securing rugs and carpets firmly to the floor with no-slip strips that can be purchased at hardware stores
- Removing small area rugs or throw rugs, which are very easy to trip on
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6. Stay connected.
Social isolation isn’t just linked to loneliness. It’s also linked to anxiety, depression, and even an increased risk of dementia.
Research shows that people who are frequently lonely between the ages of 45-64 are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia later. However, improving socialization and recovering from loneliness during these pivotal years can make someone less likely to develop the conditions later in life.
Companionship improves mood, cognition, memory, and the ability to exercise—and it even reduces stress. Group fitness classes are a great way to get moving while meeting others with similar interests. Even inviting a friend or family member over to play board games or talk about a TV show you’re both watching is beneficial to improving socialization and reducing loneliness.
Another way to broaden a social circle is with senior living. Senior living communities are designed around socialization and offer plenty of opportunities to make new friends while spending time with loved ones.
How Can Senior Living Help with Aging Well?
Senior living takes a holistic approach to aging well and ensures that residents have what they need to improve and maintain their physical and cognitive health. For example, senior living communities include plenty of engaging programs and events for residents to get involved in. These events have the additional benefit of helping residents socialize and make new friends with similar interests.
Senior living communities also focus on encouraging a healthy diet. For example, Cedarhurst Senior Living communities offer a Crafted by Cedarhurst℠ culinary program with plenty of delicious and healthy options, including Boost Your Brain℠ meal choices designed to help with cognitive function.
Ready to Explore the Benefits of Senior Living?
Interested in a low-maintenance lifestyle that enables you to have more time for what matters, like spending time with loved ones and focusing on your health and activities you enjoy?
Senior living communities offer plenty of benefits, from the elimination of household chores to delicious meal options, amenities, engaging programs, and more. Find a Cedarhurst community near you to schedule a tour.
In the meantime, explore our free guide, The Holistic Approach to Aging and Health with Senior Living, to find out more about the benefits of senior living.