January can represent new beginnings and renewed purpose. With that in mind, consider my top five ways to maintain and improve your brain health throughout 2018.
- Adopt an aerobic exercise routine. Research shows that people in their 70s who briskly walk 40 minutes 3 times per week experience growth of the hippocampus, the brain’s “memory center.” This type of exercise causes an increase in specific brain “growth factors” that help brand new neurons to develop and thrive.
- Eat a more Mediterranean-based diet. This doesn’t mean Mediterranean cuisine per se, it means 2 servings of vegetables daily, 3 of fruit, and consumption of extra virgin olive oil. Also, think less red meat, more fish; less processed foods, more whole foods and nuts; and a glass of red wine daily. This will equip your body and brain to fight against cellular damage and inflammation.
- Improve your sleep. Our brain clears itself of cellular wastes that accumulate during the day while we sleep, and getting poor quality sleep can lead to a buildup of proteins that are involved in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
- Stay socially active. Meeting new people and maintaining relationships is beneficial work for the brain because it adds complexity to our neural networks. The more complex our brains, the more able we are to withstand the presence of neurodegeneration. This is often called cognitive reserve or “neuroplasticity.”
- Be an active and lifelong learner. Learn new and challenging things like foreign languages or musical instruments. This too will improve your resistance to symptoms of brain disease like memory loss.
In addition to following my Top 5 list, I encourage you to speak with a brain health expert. Neurologists specializing in brain health can help you explore other risks you may carry, such as genetic links to Alzheimer’s disease or other health issues that increase risk such as diabetes. A partnership between you and your neurologist can preserve the health of your brain.
Wishing all my readers a productive, fulfilling, and brain healthy year!