Age, according to most people, is a number that can freak you out! No one wants to be “old”. After all, “old” is a scary thought, especially to the baby boomer generation whose #1 fear is being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia as they age. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.”
Living in fear is not healthy. If I told you to forget your age and just live your life. Could you? More importantly, how would you? According to an online Canyon Ranch article written by Maridel Reyes, “Once we hit our late twenties, the brain’s aging process begins and we begin losing neurons—the cells that make up the brain and nervous system. By our sixties, our brains have literally begun to shrink. Though these brain changes may sound a bit scary, the process is natural and it happens to everyone.” And although your brain is shrinking as you age, the brain is still malleable and constantly changing throughout your lifetime.
Your brain is filled with synaptic connections permitting neurons to pass signals between cells. Through healthy lifestyle choices, you can strengthen your synaptic connections as well as your brain’s resilience; namely its ability to function effectively while aging.
Here are 5 easy lifestyle choices to transform your life by optimizing your brain health:
- Exercise: By being physically active for at least 30 min/day. It’s walking, running, swimming, or dancing (anything that gets your heart rate up). It helps to increase the flow of oxygen to your brain encouraging the growth of new neurons and synapses. Ever feel as if you think more clearly after exercising? This is why.
- Eat Brain Food: By eating foods rich in anti-oxidants such as berries, fish, omega 3 fatty acids, whole grains, turmeric, 70%+ cocoa dark chocolate, you keep your brain fueled with nutrients imperative for brain function so that you can concentrate and think clearly.
- Get Your Rest: Sleep is necessary “down-time” for your brain to function well. Without enough sleep, you might find it challenging to focus or remember simple things. It is believed that when you are asleep, your brain neurons have a chance to recharge so you’re better able to concentrate the next day. The average person should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Manage Stress: Through a regular practice of gratitude, meditation, deep breathing, and/or performing relaxing activities like gardening or arts & crafts, you lower stress levels that can negatively impact your brain function.
- Challenge Your Brain: Try Neurobics–mental exercises for your brain. Mental exercises include brain games (e.g. Lumosity), puzzles, changing routines, practicing balance, use your non-dominate hand for regular activities like writing or brushing your teeth, etc. These types of mental stimulation increases your ability to focus, rids your brain of its unnecessary clutter and promotes new brain development.
- BONUS – Hydrate Your Mind: Your brain is approximately 78% water so it is imperative to stay hydrated. Water is vital to your health because it keeps your cells producing the energy your brain (and body) needs to function every day. Your urine is a useful indicator of proper hydration and should be pale in color.
When you take a proactive approach to your health care, you will create a lifestyle that is filled with healthy choices that help to stave off decline in mental function as well as age-related disease. By making the above healthy lifestyle choices part of your daily practice, you too can stimulate neuroplasticity in your brain thereby stimulating brain health as you age. Remember, life is a journey; an experience that you only get once. Live your life, keep your mind sharp, and forget your age!
(Image Credit: foundundertheeaves on etsy)