The brain is a complex human body part. Rightfully so because it controls everything you do even when you’re asleep. While the brain is at its optimal during the younger years, its health, like any part of the body, declines with age.
Mental decline starts as early as the 40s. It’s that time when memory fails you, when you can’t focus for long periods of time, you experience brain fog often, etc. As you age, health conditions like depression, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, hypertension, etc. can also significantly cause cognitive decline.
While this is the case, tons of research throughout the years have also shown that a healthy brain even in old age is possible. Mental decline is inescapable, but there are ways to protect yourself from its early onset.
Believe it or not, it’s all about your lifestyle that will determine how your brain ages. From exercising and feeding your brain, getting enough sleep, to learning how to manage stress and anxiety, here are some quintessential steps to get your brain going and going and going and going even during old age:
Exercise your brain
While the brain is not a muscle, it should be treated as such. Several studies show that the “use it or lose it” principle applies to how the brain functions as well. Mental stimulation of any form helps the brain establish good neuron-synapse connection and increase brain reserve. Both of these help promote better brain health in general. A good mental exercise should be diverse, challenging, and unique. This is why mind games, learning a new language, and taking up a new course are highly encouraged brain exercises.
Feed your brain a healthy diet
If there’s one ultimate machine in the human body, it’s the brain! And just as a machine needs fuel, the brain needs foods. The brain needs sufficient vitamins and minerals to function properly and protect itself from damage. A balanced diet rich in protein, low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and abundant in antioxidants and unsaturated fats is essential to a well-functioning brain. In fact, there are a lot of specific superfoods for a healthy brain.
A good night’s sleep
Just as the body revitalizes itself during sleep, the brain also repairs itself, strengthening for another day’s activity. During REM sleep, a sleeping stage characterized by rapid eye movement, the brain is thought to consolidate memory and further brain development. REM sleep can only be achieved when you have sufficient sleep.
There are many factors that can affect a good night’s sleep including anxiety, stress, and apnea. Lack of sleep can result in poor concentration and memory and mood changes. Recent studies show that lack of sleep leads to beta-amyloid plaque buildup, an abnormal protein linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. All these can impact brain health in the long run.
Learn to relax and remove stressors
When life brings you stress, do you give in? If you do, this could seriously damage the brain. Whether you suffer from acute or chronic stress, both types have shown to increase stress hormones that are thought to kill nerve cells. Beyond the usual factors, anxiety and depression are two conditions that bring out stress. These conditions lead to poor memory, brain fog, and slow brain metabolism.
When you’re stressed, find ways to diffuse it. Try to sleep, practice meditation, learn to relax, exercise to channel your stress, take proactive steps to keep a balance in your life. Should you suffer from anxiety and depression, seeking a medical practitioner can help you a great deal.
Live a healthy lifestyle
At the end of the day, how you take care of yourself will have an immense impact on brain health. It is common knowledge that smoking and taking illegal drugs can have negative effects on your body, but on your brain, its massive damage can be felt both in the short and long term.
Prevent medical risks by living a healthy lifestyle. Supplement with nootropics, brain supplements that bring a number of positive benefits, go for yearly checkups, and if you are going through something, always seek treatment.
At home, follow a brain healthy lifestyle – exercise, eat smart, be positive, live an active social life, and be happy!
My name is Sarah Burgess and I’m a health and nutrition specialist and enthusiast. I did my PhD at the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and finished in 2015 and now I’ve been writing for Slowfoodnation since 2017. Apart from writing on blogs about health, superfood and nutrition, I love to exercise, running and pilates are two of my true addictions! I believe we create our own luck and everyone have the potential to reach true potential and be the best version of ourselves.