Preventing or slowing down mental decline is a topic that we should be concerned about regardless of age. On the surface, younger people in general may have less to be concerned about than older adults. However, in today’s fast pace society full of distractions and interruptions preventing mental decline should be a topic for all. Also, the mental decline doesn’t happen overnight, it can develop long before you notice the symptoms.
As a younger person, your lifestyle choices during your early adult years can have major repercussions on the health of your brain over time. Making good lifestyle choices early on may help to prevent your cognitive abilities from declining as you age. Staying away from drugs, alcohol, and smoking while managing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep can mean a world of difference.
While sadly, there’s still no real cure for dementia (Alzheimer’s in particular), there are several ways to help slow down, maybe even reverse, its symptoms by engaging in brain-healthy activities that protect the brain and urge brain cells to become more active and alert.
1. Social contacts
There’s no denying how fun it is doing activities with your friends and family, or even going to new places and meeting new people. We are social creatures. When you connect with others, even through a simple smile or handshake, your brain releases the happy hormone known as oxytocin. This elevates your mood, reduces stress, and boosts cognitive functions. There’s new research that shows that social interactions may be as important as a healthy diet and physical movement on overall health outcomes. People who have strong social ties have less cognitive decline than those that are alone.
2. Try new activities
As we age, we can become stuck in a certain routine. The body loves routine but the spirit craves variety and adventure. Many times, adults don’t like trying new things, which could be one reason why our brains start shrinking as we age. As kids, we always enjoy trying new activities and doing things we’ve never done before, but as we grow older, trying new things makes us more uncomfortable and we fear rejection and embarrassment which reduces brain stimulation and increases the threat of cognitive decline.
3. Exercise regularly, Eat healthily, Prioritize sleep
Getting regular exercise comes with a slew of benefits; physical, emotional and most importantly, mental. It can improve mental processing speed, and memory while slowing down, even reversing cognitive impairment. And exercising doesn’t necessarily mean high-intensity, hours-on-end, rigorous movements. It could be a simple 30-minute brisk walk, going for a swim or a bike ride, gardening, or doing yoga. The point is to keep your muscles engaged and your blood pumping for less than half an hour daily. Did you know that regular exercise may be particularly advantageous for people who carry the APOE4 gene variant, which makes people more susceptible to Alzheimer’s?
Try to eat a well-balanced diet of whole foods that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain will love you for it. Also, try to minimize foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and trans fats. Studies show that there are foods that improve brain health such as avocado, olive oil, spices (such as turmeric, curry, ginger), nuts, and berries because they’re rich in phytochemicals which are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. They promote good health and can slow the decline in memory function by aiding the metabolism process of glucose in the brain. It also boosts cognitive signals.
Don’t cheat on sleep. Our bodies rely on sleep for a variety of essential functions many of which affect the brain. Most adults should get, on average, 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep at night, you could increase your risk of cognitive decline in the long run. What you do in your early adulthood years can have a serious effect on your brain health as you age. A review of observational studies carried out in 2014 states that, “healthy sleep appears to play an important role in maintaining brain health with age, and may play a key role in [Alzheimer’s disease] prevention.”
4. Listen to some good music.
Music engages the right side of the brain, allowing you to focus more on what you’re doing rather than letting your mind wander. It also can reduce stress and anxiety. It also boosts brain processes and can even reverse some symptoms of cognitive decline. So get your “praise on”!
5. Mental stimulation
Your brain needs exercise too to keep fit. Mental activities slow down cognitive decline and increase focus and concentration. Develop a habit of staying mentally fit as you age. Try playing some mind games. There’s an endless array of mental puzzles to choose from. Simply adding up your grocery bill in your head is a great way to keep your brain pumped and alert. If playing games or becoming a human calculator isn’t your cup of tea, try a new stimulating project like starting a digital side hustle or writing a blog. These endeavors require learning new skills that will stretch your brain for real.
Reading, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument are great examples of activities that keep your brain operating at its best. Another great way to create new brain pathways is to try something new, like taking a different route to work or writing with your non-dominant hand. Your brain longs to be challenged to stay viable and plastic.
Many medical professionals will tell you that although it’s normal to experience a slight decline in our mental abilities as we age, we still have the ability to slow the process down. It’s never too early to start, no matter where you are in life so you can keep your brain healthy and you can age gracefully and enjoy every minute of it.
Be well + prosper,
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