BRAIN health is important in later life, particularly when it comes to preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia Australia has put together five simple steps to help keep your brain in shape for longer.
While there are no guarantees, research shows people who adopt a healthy lifestyle reduce their dementia risk, as well as prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
1. Look after your heart
A healthy ticker and a healthy brain go hand in hand.
Research shows the risk of developing dementia appears to increase as a result of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, particularly when these occur at mid-life.
You can look after your heart by keeping a tab on cholesterol, managing your blood pressure and chronic conditions such as diabetes, giving up smoking and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
2. Be physically active
Exercise gives our brains a healthy boost. Some evidence suggests people who don’t do regular physical activity have an increased risk of developing dementia, though it is still unclear just how much and how often we should exercise specifically to reduce the risk.
Dementia Australia’s Your Brain Matters campaign suggests being active on most, preferably all, days of the week.
3. Mentally challenge your brain
Research shows the brain benefits by having to tackle something it doesn’t know. New activities help to build new brain cells and strengthen the connections between them.
But you don’t need expensive brain training courses. Learning a new language, taking up a new sport or doing a course in that subject you’ve always wanted to do - as long as you’re learning something new your brain will be challenged.
4. Eat healthy
Studies show eating a healthy, balanced diet may help in maintaining brain function.
A higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats or ‘good fats’, such as those found in fish and olive oil, is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Foods high in antioxidants, such as tomatoes, pinto and kidney beans, pecan nuts, cranberries, blueberries and oranges also seem to be good for brain health.
Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those contained in oily fish and walnuts, may reduce inflammation in the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells.
5. Be social
Getting together with your friends can do your brain good. Research suggests social engagement may contribute to building brain reserve and lower dementia risk. Plus it helps fight against depression.
For more tips visit yourbrainmatters.org.au