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How can I keep my brain sharp?

How can I keep my brain sharp?

People with better cardiovascular health, who have been more physically and mentally active, who have adopted healthy eating habits, who don’t smoke, and who drink alcohol in moderation are less likely, on average, to develop dementia.

So, how can you keep your brain sharp as you age?

1. Get physically active Your brain needs a good supply of oxygen and nutrients to function well.

  • Why not try walking to work or consider getting off your bus or train one stop early?

2. Stay socially engaged Keeping socially active can play an important role in keeping your brain sharp, and people who are socially active are less likely to develop cognitive impairment. Just 10 minutes of social interaction can increase your brain performance.

  • Simple social interaction may deliver greater benefits for your brain than solving crossword puzzles. So why not consider calling a friend or a relative for a chat?

3. Challenge your brain Life-long learning and education are good for brain health and lower your risk of developing dementia. Learning actually generates new brain cells, enriching brain networks and opening new routes that your brain can use to bypass damage. Challenging yourself, doing new things and learning are vital for brain health. You can challenge your brain in lots of ways; it doesn’t have to be all crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

  • Why not memorise the words of a song, learn how to use a new piece of software or app, start a book from a genre you have never read before, or become a tourist in your own city?

4. Attitude: Manage stress and present-mindedness Chronic stress has structural and functional effects on the hippocampus – the sea-horse part of the brain vital for making memories. People who are relaxed and outgoing have a lower risk of developing dementia.

  • Learning to manage the stress that you experience can have a positive effect on your brain health. Paying attention to the present moment reduces stress and has the added bonus of improving memory.

5. Adapt your lifestyle to protect your brain While age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, research is showing that there are life choices that you can make to positively influence your brain health.

  • For example, Type 2 diabetes together with poor sugar control increases your risk of developing dementia. Why not consider giving your brain a treat by having a sugar-free day today?

Sabina Brennan is a Research Assistant Professor in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin.

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