As we age, changes to the brain are normal. Here are five helpful tips to keep your mind sharp and lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions affecting memory including language and problem-solving:
Challenge your mind.
The brain is the central control unit of our bodies. The best way to keep it in shape is to challenge yourself mentally. Consider taking adult education courses, starting a new hobby, learning to play a musical instrument, or simply working on jigsaw puzzles. Cut down on the amount of television you watch and consider reading a book instead. No matter what you choose, keeping your mind active will exercise and strengthen your brain.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is important as it allows your brain to heal and can boost overall memory health. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you feel you may suffer from sleep apnea, it is important to get yourself assessed and talk to your family doctor.
Manage your blood pressure.
Consistent high blood pressure in mid-life (45-65 years) can damage your blood vessels in the brain and increase your risk of vascular dementia later in life. If you are at risk of or have high blood pressure (hypertension), speak with your family doctor about what’s best for you.
Care for your body.
Exercise and nutrition are essential to a healthy brain. Target to exercise 30-60 minutes a few times a week – some great options are swimming or walking. Choose a diet that focuses on plant-based foods, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil and other foods high in omega fatty acids like Omega-3, and limit your alcohol intake.
Maintaining a healthy social calendar is a great way to keep our brain active, as well as helping to reduce depression and stress as we age. Stay socially connected with loved ones and friends either virtually or in person – especially if you live alone. Consider engaging in activities at your local social clubs and seniors centres.
Dr. Sudip Saha, MD, MRCPEd, FRCPC, CCST (UK), is William Osler Health System’s Medical Director of Seniors Health and Division Head of Geriatric Medicine. He is a trained Geriatrician/Gerontologist from the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Dr. Saha’s sub-specialty interests and expertise include dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and continence in the elderly.