Brain health scientists are learning a great deal about how some older adults keep their brains youthful and that is helping us learn more about what we can do to prevent dementia and age-related memory loss.
Your brain ages just like the rest of your body but you can help protect it and possibly slow decline by making smarter lifestyle choices. Here are a few things you can try:
Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are good ways to keep the mind sharp, but what’s even better? Taking up a new hobby. Learning new things as you grow older can challenge the brain, providing greater benefit than sticking with the same old thing. So put down the pencil and pick up that musical instrument or head to that crafting class. Enjoy an added bonus if you bring a friend along – social interaction is another key to long-term brain health.
Build your connections
As we get older our brain shrinks and so do its connections, weakening our brain’s natural ability. This is known as cognitive reserve. Staying socially active, pursuing higher education and working in professions that require social interaction all help increase your cognitive reserve. Which professions offer the most brain health benefits? Research suggests teaching, law, social work and healthcare maybe the best jobs for our brains.
Take care of your body
You may not be able to change careers but you can change your diet. The Mediterranean diet seems to be the most effective at reducing the risk of dementia. That means lots of nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. A little bit of red wine and regular exercise can round out the benefits for both your brain and your heart.
Talk to your doctor about fish oil and aspirin
What’s good for your heart is good for your brain. The ASCEND trial, a study of 15,000 people funded by the British Heart Foundation, is investigating the brain-health benefits of taking heart-healthy fish oil supplements and daily low-dose aspirin. Omega-3s, found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, appear to help slow cognitive decline. Aspirin reduces the risk of blood clotting, a primary source of heart attack and stroke, which hasten cognitive decline. Both show promise, but talk to your doctor before starting a fish oil or aspirin regimen.
If you’d like to see how your brain health ranks on a scale of 1 to 100, visit healthybrains.org and click on Brain Check-Up to take a self-assessment and determine your Brain Health Index score or BHI. Take it a step further by answering questions about your memory. You can find the memory test on your personalized dashboard.