Rather than cognitive decline being a normal part of the ageing process, according to research, there are a number of modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia. And it turns out that many of the habits we can implement for a healthy brain are similar to those that improve our physical health and wellbeing.
So, where to start? Here are our top six ways to improve your brain health.
There is evidence that time spent in formal education can have an impact on dementia risk. Dementia studies have shown that the longer you spend in education, the lower your risk of dementia. In fact, for each additional year of education, there is an 11 percent decrease in the risk of developing dementia.
But this doesn’t mean you need to run out and enrol in a university degree. Formal education can include community education classes, online classes or another great option for older people is the University of the Third Age (U3A).
At U3A university is a loose term as there are no academic requirements and no exams. The focus of this worldwide organisation is on promoting learning for personal enjoyment, wellbeing and keeping the brain active. There are local U3A organisations across Australia.
Exercise can not only improve your physical health, but studies have now found an association between physical activity and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
The even better news is that not only will regular aerobic exercise play a role in protecting your brain from dementia, but it can also help you live better with the disease.
Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous either, just a gentle stroll is enough to make a difference.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on the type of diet is limited, there is some evidence of the link between high blood sugar and cognitive decline. There is also some indication that sticking to a Mediterranean diet can have a positive impact on cognitive function.
There is some evidence of a link between depression and dementia. So taking care of your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. If you have any symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns discuss them with your doctor, who can put a mental health plan in place.
Sleep can often be an overlooked element in our overall health and wellbeing. However, getting enough sleep is so important in helping you function well. Not getting enough sleep due to insomnia or sleep apnea can lead to cognitive decline in older people.
There are a whole host of games and apps that claim to help improve your brain health but it’s worth thinking beyond these tools. Taking on a new challenge of any kind can have short and long-term benefits for your brain. And better yet, these challenges can have an even greater impact than just improving your brain function.
Maybe you want to dabble in art, learn to play a musical instrument, start a new craft project, build a piece of furniture or play a new game. All of these things can not only lead to you learning new skills and thinking differently, but they can help you feel accomplished and even make new friends.