When we think about aging well we generally focus on things like mobility and digestion.
But it’s just as important to focus on our gray matter. These brain health tips will help.
Brain Health Tips to Age Like a Boss
You’d do well to incorporate all of these tips into your daily life. However, if you’re lazy, prefer eating junk food and enjoy staying up late, there is one tip that has the potential to stop you from getting Alzheimer’s.
We assume that ‘old people maladies’ are something we don’t have to worry about until we reach a certain age. When in fact, the opposite is true.
The younger you are when you start focusing on brain health, the better off you’ll be down the line. If you already fall into the older category, you can still catch up if you’re lagging.
Wherever you are, now is always the best time to think about what you can do to delay dementia, retain muscle and bone mass, keep all your teeth, etc.
Dentures aren’t pretty, especially when they’re in a cup of water.
1. Laugh More (But Not By Yourself)
We all know laughing feels good, but did you know laughter is good for the brain? Yup, research has found that laughter enhances cognitive functioning.
Here’s another fun fact. It turns out you’re 30 times more likely to laugh if you’re with somebody else than if you’re alone. Cognitive neuroscientist and standup comic Sophie Scott shares this and a bunch of other interesting facts about laughter in her entertaining TED talk.
Sophie also explains how laughing with other people allows us to access a really ancient evolutionary system that mammals have evolved to make and maintain social bonds.
Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to serious health conditions among the elderly. Actively seeking out opportunities to not only connect with others, but laugh together, can help us avoid this.
2. Improve Your Sleep Habits
The science is unequivocal. Sleep matters. Getting a good night’s rest is vital for neuroplasticity and brain function and may even facilitate the removal of waste products from brain cells.
If you want to ensure a healthy brain later in life, now is the time to improve your sleep habits. Go to be at a reasonable hour. Institute a digital sunset so your body has time to recover from the blue light exposure.
They might not seem like a big deal, but these things matter. It’s just that we’re so used to not doing them that we don’t realise the disservice we’re doing ourselves.
Check out Dan Gartenberg’s TED talk for more on the brain benefits of deep sleep as well as how to get more of it. And then, switch off your screens and get to bed. Unless it’s 10am where you are.
In which case, get to work already!
3. Get Your Butt off the Couch
Exercise is good for weight management and muscle tone, but did you know regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills?
Wendy Suzuki is Professor of Neural Science, author, blogger focused on the study of memory and how to improve it with exercise.
The author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, Wendy was Inspired by her experiences of developing a regular exercise program in her own life.
In 2009 she became a certified exercise instructor and since that time she has taught a form of exercise called intenSati.
Her TED talk is super interesting and sure to inspire to get your butt off the couch and into the gym for a Zumba class.
Exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today. —Wendy Suzuki
4. Eat Power Foods for the Brain (No Pizza, Sorry)
If you’d like to optimise your brain health, eating foods that improve brain function is key. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Neal Barnard. He offers practical advice and looks good for his age.
Dr. Neal (as he’s affectionately known in our house) shares a lot of wisdom in his popular TED talk. If you like what he has to say you’ll definitely want to grab yourself a copy of his book.
Also titled Power Foods for the Brain, the book offers an effective 3-step plan to get (and keep) your brain healthy. You’ll discover what foods are best for cognitive function, the roles alcohol and caffeine can play in Alzheimer’s risk as well as a menu plan, recipes and more.
5. Learn New Things (Makes Sure You Mix it Up)
The author of Still Alice —which was made into a movie starring Juliane Moore—Lisa Genova uses fiction to bring us into the lives of people with neurological disease, making their worlds real and relatable.
In her powerful TED talk she highlights the one thing you can do that will prevent Alzheimer’s even if you’re genetically predisposed to the disease or if your lifestyle is less than optimal.
Lisa says we need to learn new things. But there’s a caveat. The new things you learn must be rich in meaning. They should ideally include sight, sound, association and emotion.
You can’t just do crossword puzzles and expect your brain health to soar. Nope, Lisa says we need to do things like learn to speak Italian, meeting new friends, reading a book or listening to TED talks, etc.
We can be resilient to the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology through the recruitment of undamaged pathways. We create these pathways, this cognitive reserved, by learning new things. —Lisa Genova