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17 February 2021

7 ways to keep your brain healthy

Many people don’t start thinking about their brain health until much later in life, when they start to notice differences in their memory and other cognitive functions.

But according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, if you start thinking about your brain health earlier, you can make changes that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Dementia experts have found that keeping healthy during our forties and fifties appears to be particularly important in helping alter the risk of dementia in later life. But the good news is you can make changes at any age to benefit your overall health, and help keep your brain healthy.

Here are a few science-backed suggestions to get you started…

  1. Avoid smoking. It’s not easy to give up smoking, but thinking about your brain could be a good incentive. Smoking is already linked to a number of health conditions – and now researchers have found it increases your risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Whatever age you stop smoking, it helps improve your health – so it’s never too late.
  2. Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Keeping cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control can help your overall health and reduce the risk of dementia. There are several things you can do to lower cholesterol, such as reducing red meat, cheese and biscuits in your diet and increasing your intake of oily fish, fruit and vegetables.
  3. Be physically healthy. You don’t have to train for a marathon to keep your brain healthy. Doing a physical activity that you enjoy means you’re more likely to stick with it, so your body and brain will feel the benefit for longer. You can build up strength with anything from lifting weights to digging up weeds, improve balance through yoga or dancing, and get your blood pumping by cycling or climbing stairs for a few minutes every day.
  4. Stay connected. In recent years, scientists from several different fields have explored the impact our social connections and relationships have on our health. For our brain health, social contact is crucial. Evidence increasingly suggests that enjoyable face-to-face interactions can slow symptoms of dementia such as deteriorating memory, as listening and replying to people requires us to think and respond quickly.
  5. Eat well and aim for balance. Eating a well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of several health conditions in later life, including dementia. A balanced diet could help protect you against dementia by helping to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Reducing fat in our diet is important, but it doesn’t mean cutting it out altogether. Some fats, such as those found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados can be beneficial. A good balance of fruit, vegetables, pulses, fish and high fibre complex carbs every week can go a long way to keeping your body healthy and getting vital nutrients.
  6. Keep your brain active and exercised. Staying mentally and socially active is linked to a lower risk of problems with memory and thinking. Keeping your brain active can mean anything from spending more time in education to doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language or playing an instrument.
  7. Keep an eye on drinking alcohol. It’s well known that drinking impairs thinking and judgement. Now research has found a link between drinking too much and an increased risk of diseases that lead to dementia. In fact, long-term heavy drinking is known to cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which can lead to permanent memory loss.

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