Tips to Age-proof Your Brain
Keeping your brain healthy will not only help you in your day-to-day activities, but it also can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems. Here are some easy ways to fight an ageing brain.
Is Your Brain Ageing?
Can't find your car's keys? Forgot what's on your grocery list? Can't remember the name of the personal trainer you liked at the gym? You're not alone. Everyone forgets things occasionally. Still, memory loss is not to be taken lightly. Although there are no guarantees when it comes to preventing memory loss or dementia, memory tricks can be helpful. Consider seven simple ways to make your brain better, faster, and smarter — and know when to seek help for memory loss.
The best advice experts give to keep your brain healthy and young is aerobic exercise. A combined program of aerobics and weight training is the best. Studies show the best outcomes for those engaged in both types of exercise. Perhaps the most striking brain research today is the strong evidence we now have that exercise may forestall some kinds of mental decline. It may even restore memory.
Another path to a better brain is through your stomach. We’ve all heard about antioxidants as cancer fighters. Eating foods that contain these molecules, which neutralize harmful free radicals, may be especially good for your brain too. Free radicals have everything to do with breaking down the neurons in our brains. Many colourful fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, as are some beans, whole grains, nuts and spices. More important, though, is overall nutrition. If your diet is heavy, then you’re probably also heavy. The same weight that burdens your legs on the stairs also burdens your brain for the witty reply or quick problem solving.
Speed it Up
Our brains naturally start slowing down at the cruelly young age of 30. It used to be thought that this couldn’t be helped, but a barrage of new studies show that people of any age can train their brains to be faster and, in effect, younger. But, given the right tools, we can train our brains to act like they did when we were younger. All that’s required is dedicated practice: exercises for the mind.
Stop! Breathe. Relax. Good. While challenging your brain is very important, remaining calm is equally so. Traumatic stress is bad for your brain cells. Stress can disturb cognitive processes such as learning and memory, and consequently limit the quality of human life, states Jeansok Kim of the University of Washington. One example is a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is a primary locus of memory formation, but which can be seriously debilitated by chronic stress. Of course, physical exercise is always a great destressor, as are calmer activities like yoga and meditation.
While you’re working on a complex problem, whether it be a calculus proof or choosing the right car for your family, it really pays to “sleep on it.” Researchers at Harvard Medical School have looked at the conditions under which people come up with creative solutions. In a study involving math problems, they found that a good night’s rest doubled participants’ chances of finding a creative solution to the problems the next day. The sleeping brain, they theorize, is vastly capable of synthesizing complex information.
Laugh a Little
Humour stimulates the parts of our brain that use the “feel good” chemical messenger dopamine. That puts laughter in the category of activities you want to do over and over again, such as eating chocolate or having sex. Laughter is pleasurable, perhaps even “addictive,” to the brain. But can humour make us smarter? The jury is still out and more studies are needed, but the initial results are encouraging.
Get Wiser with Age
Scientists are starting to understand how wisdom works on a neurological level. Older people are better at solving problems, because they have more mental information to draw upon than younger people do. That’s why those in their 50s and 60s are sage. They’re the ones we turn to for the best advice, the ones we want to run our companies and our country.
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