The brain is like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it becomes.
It also ages like a muscle; as you get older you need to do more to keep it in shape.
When your brain grows it forms new neural pathways. But as you get into middle or old age, these pathways start to die off.
By using your brain regularly you form new, alternative routes that bypass the dead pathways, keeping your brain sharp. If you don’t use your brain, whole areas can start to die off.
Here are a few ways to keep your brain healthy well into old age:
Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy
When you learn something new or do something for the first time you create new pathways, or strengthen old ones in your brain. This could be anything from quizzes and games like Sudoku and crosswords to reading a new book or learning a new language.
It doesn’t even need to be a complex skill – learn a new recipe, fix your grandson’s bike or plant a new herb in your garden.
Food is fuel for your brain – if you put in poor food, then the brain’s performance will suffer. There are a number of so-called ‘superfoods’ that apparently boost brain power by themselves, but the best diet is a balanced one.
However, adding foods that are high in antioxidants can help – these include a lot of dark or red coloured fruits like blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes, along with spinach and grapes. It’s also important to have a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet as this increases your body’s ability to pump blood to all the major organs including the brain.
Keeping socially active is important for your brain as it provides new experiences which help keep it creating new neural pathways. This could be because of a discussion with friends, meeting in a new place or getting together to try a new activity.
A study has shown that those who partake in high levels of social activity experience only a quarter the rate of cognitive decline as experienced by the least socially active.
As mentioned above, the better the blood flow to the brain, the more oxygen it gets and the better it works. By keeping fit and partaking in exercise, you not only give your brain a boost of blood but also improve the overall effectiveness of your circulatory system.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Most exercises, especially team sports, help improve the neural connections as you have to make quick decisions creating new pathways in your brain.
Finally, a study by the CINP (International college of Neuropsychopharmacology) has shown that running has an antidepressant effect. This effect was linked with growing more cells in your brain’s hippocampus, the area responsible for learning and memory.
Spotting the signs
Spotting problems with your mind can be difficult so make sure you talk to both your family and take regular visits to your GP if you have any concerns. Ask your family to keep their eye out and pay regular visits. If you are concerned, it might be worth keeping a diary of any issues so you can keep track of them.
If you’re worried about Alzheimer’s, read this checklist of Signs and Symptoms.