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Keep Your Brain Young With These Simple Strategies

By on April 23, 2018 in Cognitive Longevity with 0 Comments

A lot of people say that ‘age is but a number’.  On the whole, we will be healthier in our old age than our forefathers and our life expectancy is longer.  But try as we might, as we grow older, we won’t be able to ignore all the creaks, twinges and aches in our bodies, nor could we ignore that our minds are perhaps not as sharp as they used to be.

The process of being a grumpy old person is gradual but one day we will find ourselves complaining about the incomprehensible music or wonder why kids nowadays dress like that or how much better it was in the old days. What is happening is that we are being stuck in the mud!  Keeping our brain young is important. It will put us more in step with the mainstream and spare us years of frustration and isolation. We can also form meaningful relationships with younger members of our families.

Elderly lady completes puzzle

So what should we do to keep our brain young?

Fortunately, it is never too late. Our brains are rather resilient and have what is termed as ‘neuroplasticity’. It is possible to keep our brain young by adopting simple strategies that help keep our brains at an optimal level.

1. Wine and chocolate

No, I am not kidding. Studies have shown that eating flavonoid-rich foods like tea, chocolate, berries and wine can have an impact on cognitive performance.  Those who consumed chocolate or wine performed much better.  Like all things, we have to find moderation – the recommended amount is 10g of chocolate per day and for wine, it’s 75-100 ml – equivalent to a small glass.

Although some of us would love to live on chocolate and wine alone, having a healthy and varied diet will ensure your brain stays healthy.  Include swiss chard and spinach, which are rich in minerals like folate and magnesium in your meals. Food like nuts, avocados, free-range eggs and oily fish like salmon and mackerel contains healthy fats which are good for your brain.

So go ahead and enjoy a good dinner with some fish and vegetables, paired with a nice glass of wine.  And don’t forget the chocolate.

2. 10,000 steps a day

It is not a surprise that regular exercise will go a long way in keeping your brain young. Besides the increased blood flow to our brain, exercise will keep cholesterol and blood pressure low and help with mental stress.  In fact, exercise will actually make our hippocampus (the part of the brain that deals with memory) grow.

Maybe the thought of doing regular exercise seems like a huge deal.  Start small with slow strolls around the neighborhood or in the park.  Aim for the friendly 10,000 steps a day mark.  There are plenty of tech wearables like Fitbit who can measure the number of steps you do in the day but a cheap pedometer will do as well.  You will find that counting steps can be quite addictive, especially when you try to beat your step score every day. Before you know it, 10,000 steps are easy.

Fiddling with a pedometer and step tracking not your cup of tea? How about dancing? It combines a lot of the recommended strategies to keep your brain young.  There is the exercise, as well as the social aspect and learning new dance steps will fire those synapses in our brains to keep it elastic and primed.  Harvard Medical School highly recommends both dancing and tai chi for brain health.

3. Learn how to play the ukulele

Well, maybe not a ukulele. However, it is a known fact that learning a new skill has great benefits in keeping the brain young. The music itself has a way to reach inaccessible parts of the brain.  John Hopkins School of Medicine explains that music being ‘mathematical and architectural’ forces our brain to do a lot of processing in order to make sense of it.

Combine the powerful effects of music and learning an instrument and you’ll get a good brain workout. It will contribute to an increase in mental alertness, memory recall, and spatial processing while the emotive connection that music provides can help release anxiety and stress.  And the best bit?  The effects tend to be long lasting as well.

4. Give it a rest. Take plenty of naps.

Naps are underrated.  We know it is important to have a good night’s sleep; a restful sleep at night helps the brain glymphatic system get rid of a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from brain tissue.  However, a quick 30-60 minutes nap in the afternoon can reboot your brain and will do marvels for your cognitive function.  It lowers your blood pressure and put you in a better mood. The recommended length is 60 minutes at most; beyond that, you will move to a deeper sleep cycle and will feel groggy and disoriented when you wake up.

With such great benefits, it is not a wonder that companies like Google, Ben and Jerry’s and Price Waterhouse Cooper are installing nap pods for their employees to catch forty winks and be brain-active.  If you are a serial napper, you will be joining a long list of famous people like Einstein, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Leonardo Da Vinci and Barack Obama.

5. Crowdsurf in a heavy metal concert

Joking, only partly. There is a Coke Zero advertisement where a Mr. Hadleigh tries the drink for the first time. He was so surprised by the taste and then goes on to try other new things, including getting a tattoo and crowd surfing during a concert. He is enjoying life to the fullest.

The key to this strategy is trying something new. While I cannot guarantee you will bodysurf after tasting Coke Zero, I can guarantee that trying new things will definitely keep life interesting.   Being open to change may also give you opportunities that you may not have considered.  It could kickstart your social life and you will be increasing your social circle. Being part of a collective whole may help you feel like you are a part of things and not isolated.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are simple strategies you could do to keep your brain young and healthy.  Taking care of your body, managing your stress levels and exercising your brain will help.  Having a positive mindset and being open to new experiences will ensure that you have a young, fit brain who is going to resilient and agile.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tom Andrews BSc is the editor of MentalWellnessToday.com. He devotes his time to psychology and mental health research and also enjoys climbing, hiking, and team sports. Tom is a contributor to several other highly regarded health magazines and blogs.

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