During the holiday rush, it’s easy to put good health habits on the list of things to do next year. You are your brain, however, and without it, there are no thoughts, emotions, movement or memory. So, it’s important to remember to take care of your most powerful organ that takes no holidays and works tirelessly for you 24/7, 365 days a year.
Follow these six “Pillars of Brain Health” and you will be on your way to a healthier and happier new year.
1) Get Moving
Exercise, exercise, exercise. It is the best thing you can do for your brain health. Any aerobic activity will do but a combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance exercises is ideal. People who exercise regularly may have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Plus, it enhances learning, memory and mood, reduces stress, and improves sleep quality. Now that’s a gift everyone could use.
2) Exercise Your Brain
Like physical activity, mental activity is important too. Mental stimulation may improve brain function, can promote new brain cell growth, and can decrease the likelihood of developing dementia. This holiday, play games, try a new hobby or skill, or better yet, sign-up for a class to start the new year. Novel activities help your brain form new cellular connections and strengthen existing ones.
3) Eat Mediterranean
Foods rich in antioxidants, like the foods found in the Mediterranean diet, can help fend off the harmful effects of oxidation that damage your brain as it ages. This holiday season, add more fish on the dinner menu like in the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, or festa dei sette pesci, which is a seven course fish dinner. Find ways to include vegetables, whole grains, berries, walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans in your holiday recipes.
4) Spend Time With Others
Staying connected with family and friends is vital for brain health, too. Studies show that those with the most interaction within their community, experience the slowest rate of memory decline. Events around the holidays create perfect opportunities to cherish friends and family, volunteer, and begin new relationships.
5) Rest Well
Aaah sleep. Routinely getting a good night’s sleep (six or more hours) and managing stress are habits that could help you keep your brain happier and healthier for years to come. How? Sleep may reduce the build up of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, associated with Alzheimer’s. It energizes you, improves your mood, and boosts your immune system too. Enjoy your holidays more by getting plenty of shut-eye and reducing your stress. You might have to say “no” to some requests.
6) Control Other Risks
Many common medical conditions are linked to declining brain function. During the holidays it’s tempting to throw caution to the wind. Try to keep in check your blood pressure and weight, take medication as prescribed and limit salt and sugar. Be sure to consult a professional if you are feeling some “holiday blues” or depression.
Want to do more for your brain health in 2017?
Learn more tips to improve brain health by exploring the Six Pillars of Brain Health at HealthyBrains.org. Taking the free brain check-up will help you set good intentions for a happier and brain healthier new year.