Ways to keep your brain young and sharp
Mental decline is the most feared consequences of aging. But cognitive impairment is not inevitable. Here are a few ways you can help maintain brain function.
Build social networks
Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of dementia, as well as lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy.
Get mental stimulation
Read, take courses, try “mental gymnastics,” such as word puzzles or math problems Experiment with things that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort, such as drawing, painting, and other crafts.
Avoid tobacco in all its forms.
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Get physical exercise
Exercise spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells. This results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive, which translates into better performance in aging animals. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, helps blood sugar balance and reduces mental stress, all of which can help your brain as well as your heart.
Don’t abuse alcohol
Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two drinks a day.
Improve your diet
Good nutrition can help your mind as well as your body. For example, people that eat a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil) and plant sources of proteins are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.
Care for your emotions
People who are anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Poor scores don’t necessarily predict an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age, but good mental health and restful sleep are certainly important goals.
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Consider low-dose aspirin
Some observational studies suggest that low-dose aspirin may reduce the risk of dementia, especially vascular dementia.
Protect your head
Moderate to severe head injuries, even without diagnosed concussions, increase the risk of cognitive impairment.