Nurturing Your Aging Brain

Inevitably we are all going to get older but unfortunately, for many of us ageing appears to go hand in hand with becoming increasingly forgetful. For many of us, there seems to be an ever-present nagging concern in the back of our minds that we may have more than just a few memory lapses. I, for one, have often entered a room only to find I don’t actually have a clue what I went in there for. I even opened my fridge once to find my iron perched on the top shelf; I know I must have put it there because I’m the only person in this household who actually knows how to operate an iron!

The question we should all be asking ourselves way before we enter our golden years is:

“Is forgetfulness inevitable or can we find ways in which to keep our brain active, stimulated and working at optimum strength?”

A number of experts have suggested that there are ways to promote brain health so let’s take a look at some of their ideas:

Exercise and Movement

Walking, Cycling and swimming are all great forms of exercise and it appears that exercising your muscles also exercises your mind:

  • Exercise increases the number of oxygenating blood vessels to the area of the brain with which we think.
  • Exercise helps the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells.

Exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, fights diabetes and reduces mental stress, all of which help your heart as well as your brain.

Sleep

The brain does not shut off when we are asleep and often we have very vivid dreams or try to resolve problems during our sleep. This can keep us awake worrying. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night in order to be fully functioning during the day. If you find yourself struggling to maintain sleep perhaps try the following:

  • Calming music – There are lots of options, many of which can be bought on CD. You can also download lots of options via online apps, free of charge.
  • Meditating – thinking positive and calming thoughts.
  • A warm drink – cocoa or malted drinks seem to work best.
  • Avoid caffeine – some are more susceptible than others so perhaps avoid after 3 pm for example.
  • Avoid screens (Cell phones and tablets) just before bedtime.

Eating well

  • Vegetables – Broccoli, spinach, Kale and tomatoes
  • Omega 3 Oils found in oily fish – Mackerel, Herrings etc.
  • Green teas

All the above are thought to improve memory and overall brain function.

  • Protein in general – Meat and eggs, etc. produce Norepinephrine and Dopamine which are associated with mental alertness.
  • B vitamins – Folic acid, B6, and B12 – are thought to reduce the risk of dementia.

Mental Agility

Keep your brain active by doing the following regularly:

  • Reading
  • Crosswords
  • Sudoku
  • Scrabble
  • Brain-training puzzles
  • Take OU (Open University) or Evening Classes

Social Activities

Human beings are social creatures and research suggests that our brains change, in a positive way, when we are around others.

  • Establish and retain relationships with family and friends – arrange outings, dinners meeting etc. Staying connected to other human beings is one of the best ways to maintain your cognitive abilities.
  • Take holidays to places you have never visited before and learn about new cultures.
  • Being interested in life, in general, is a great boost mentally.

Optimism

We all vary in our degrees of optimism naturally but it is possible to practice being optimistic:

  • Make a list of all the good things you have in your life.
  • Surround yourself with people who are happy and optimistic.
  • A positive mental attitude helps to stave off anxiety and depression both of which make you feel less sharp mentally.

Recent research seems to show that although our brain size does begin to shrink with age, this doesn’t necessary mean that our cognitive abilities have decreased. These six ways, to maintain and possibly even improve our cognitive status, are all very simple and manageable and well worth considering. By taking care of our brains we are also taking care of our general health which will help us to enjoy our later years more fully and hopefully live longer too!