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Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp

Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp

Ways to keep your brain sharp

There is no magic pill for dementia but adopting good lifestyle habits will provide a wealth of health for your brain and body, says Dr. Anthony Levinson, leading dementia researcher in Canada. Exploring various ‘ways to keep your brain sharp’ through these habits is essential for maintaining cognitive health.”

We’ve all had an occasional memory lapse – you can’t find your keys or where you parked your car at the mall. Blanked out on someone’s name or a street in your neighbourhood. Occasional forgetfulness can happen at any age so relax – it’s not a warning of mental deterioration, or the onset of Alzheimer’s. We are not all destined for dementia! “While age is one of the strongest risk factors for dementia, dementia is not a normal part of aging, and most people will not develop dementia as they age,” reports Dr. Anthony Levinson, leading dementia researcher and professor of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.

Read more about: How To Prepare An Aging Brain To Re-enter The Workforce

That’s great news and there are many manageable things you can do to keep your brain healthy and substantially reduce your risk of dementia – and remain independent for as long as possible. With almost 100 per cent of older Canadians surveyed planning to live independently in their own homes, it’s prudent to make healthy lifestyle choices that promote staying sharp, active and living safely.

Adopt These Healthy Lifestyle Habits Today

“Try to stay physically, mentally, and socially active; follow a healthy diet, don’t smoke and limit alcohol consumption; prevent head injuries and hearing loss; and look after your blood vessel health by managing high blood pressure and diabetes,” advises Dr. Levinson, co-leader of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, a trustworthy, evidence-based source of healthy aging information.

It’s never too early or too late to get started: “The more healthy lifestyle behaviours you can do, the better; and what’s good for your brain is also good for your body!” Dr. Levinson recommends picking activities that you enjoy that are also good for your brain; if you choose things you enjoy doing, you’ll be more likely to stick with them.

Think of your brain like a muscle of sorts – you want to challenge it, like you do with strength training your biceps or quads to maintain or grow muscle. “Conversely, social isolation and hearing loss may be associated with atrophy, or brain shrinkage. Hence the similarities to the ‘use it or lose it’ exercise/muscle training advice,” he adds.

Now Hear This: Get Your Hearing Tested

Don’t let your hearing loss go untreated. “There is a 90% increased chance of developing dementia if you have hearing loss compared to someone without hearing loss.” Adults with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for social isolation and depression, less cognitive activity and head injuries through falls – other risk factors for dementia.

Hearing aids can greatly help diminish cognitive decline, so too learning a new skill. Change helps build brain resiliency. Learn a language, a new game, a new hobby or learn to play an instrument. Sign up for cooking classes and feast on healthy plant-based recipes and elements of the Mediterranean diet. Take up an entirely new sport or fitness routine.

Get Up And Move To Build Healthy Brain And Body

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Instead of sitting, nourish the brain with moderate movement throughout the day. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Ideally, aim for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity weekly, along with strength-building and balance exercises, and seven to nine hours of sleep to stay sharp.

Healthy habits can add years to life and life to years – and to your brain. Focus on healthspan versus lifespan. “Lifespan is the total number of years we live from birth until death. Healthspan is the number of years someone is healthy and without chronic or debilitating disease.

“There is often a focus on longevity: living as long a life as possible or to a certain age – like 100. Whereas I think what many people are probably hoping for is living in good health, not just being alive,” says Dr. Levinson.

Optimal aging requires getting smart about your cognitive, physical, psychological and social wellbeing. A positive lifestyle can make all the difference in how your brain operates today, tomorrow and years down the road. Bolster your brain health and live longer and better.

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