When you think about fitness, you probably think about marathons and muscles, but do you ever consider brain fitness? You should! Your brain plays a critical role in every area of your life, from learning, working and playing, to personality, aptitude and memory. While the brain is the body’s most important organ, it is also the most mysterious. There is a lot that science can’t yet explain, including why some people can still recall the name of their first-grade teacher at age 100, while others develop the early signs of Alzheimer’s in their 60s. But emerging research indicates that with a few relatively simple lifestyle choices, you can maximize your brain health while minimizing the risks of age-related memory loss and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Here’s how.
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1. Eat a Brain-Healthy Diet. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fish), protein, antioxidants, fruits and vegetables and vitamin B; low in trans fats; and with an appropriate level of carbohydrates will help keep your brain healthy.
2. Stay Mentally Active. Activities such as learning a new skill or language, working on crossword puzzles, taking classes, and learning how to dance can help challenge and maintain your mental functioning.
3. Exercise Regularly. Exercising often can increase circulation, improve coordination, and help prevent conditions that increase the risk of dementia such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
4. Stay Social. Spending time with friends, volunteering, and traveling can keep your mind active and healthy.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on brain health.
6. Manage Stress. Participating in yoga, spending time with friends, or doing other stress-relieving activities can help preserve your ability to remember and learn.
7. Prevent Brain Injury. Wearing protective head gear and seat belts can help you avoid head injury, which has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
8. Control Other Health Conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and controlling stress can help reduce your risk of diseases that affect your brain, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and hypertension.
9. Avoid Unhealthy Habits. Smoking, heavy drinking and use of recreational drugs can increase the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
10. Consider Your Genes. If your family history puts you at risk for developing dementia, work with your doctor to find ways to maintain your brain health to help avoid or slow the progression of cognitive decline.