9 Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Brain Young
“Of all things I ever lost I miss my mind the most.”
I used to get a good chuckle over that quote, until I got a little older and started the “where did I put that” game.
You know that game.
Where, you wonder inwardly, did I put my keys? Where did I put my phone? Where did I put my glasses? Where did I put my husband?
It starts in your mid-thirties and seems to get worse as you age.
You chalk up to being menopausal, or middle-aged, or perhaps it’s because to lack of sleep, or because of kids, or to stress.
But, what is really happening is that our brain is aging.
Science tells us how well our brain ages is 25% due to genes, while the other three-quarters is dependent on our lifestyle choices.
Menopause and Our Brain
Research shows that the female sex hormone, estrogen, plays a key role in brain function.
An article in the journal Neurology describes estrogen as “a key element in the work of the brain [that] helps direct blood to parts of the brain that are more active.”
Since that hormone declines during menopause, one would think so would our brain function.
However, according to a six-year study of women who were still menstruating, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal, most of the women improved their test scores of brain function over time.
That is, even women with declining estrogen were able to improve brain function.
Should you have memory slips or difficulty concentrating, research suggests a variety of potential underlying causes.
These include disturbed sleep, extra stress, or depression.
For instance, if you’re awakened by night sweats several times during the night, that’s often enough to interfere with your ability to concentrate or remember what tool you were trying to find in the garage the next day.
9 Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Brain Young
One of the best tips to keep your brain young is to exercise. A combination of aerobic and strength spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells.
This, in turn, slows down our mental decline.
TIP: Aim for 3-4 times of aerobic work a week, with 2-3 sessions of weight training.
Stress is bad for your brain (as well as your waistline, your heart and your relationships).
In a paper released on stress and the brain, Jeansok Kim of the University of Washington found that stress can “disturb cognitive processes such as learning and memory, and consequently limit the quality of human life”.
TIP: Try meditation, yoga, or 5-minutes of daily deep breathing (come on – we all have 5-minutes we can spare for our l’ brain).
3/ Break your routine
Do something outside of your comfort level. Challenge your brain with new activities.
Your brain is similar to your other muscles. For example, if you were to do the same exercise program, day-in-day-out, you would stop seeing results after a period of time.
This is because your muscles have become accustomed to those exercises.
The same goes for the brain.
TIP: Put the crossword puzzle away (if that’s what you do everyday), and instead, learn how to use a new app on your phone (or for some, how to use your phone).
4/ Get some sleep
Sleep is the only time the brain has to re-boot itself. It’s when we consolidate new memories and restore and recover from what has happened to us during the day.
TIP: Boost your sleep by turning off your electronics in the evening, performing yin yoga, meditating, and getting outside during the day so your circadian rhythm is activated.
5/ Hang out with friends
We are social animals and spending time with others is important for our brain health.
In a 2012 Dutch study it was shown that loneliness increased the risk of dementia by 65%. Some doctors even believe that loneliness is worse for your health than smoking, being an alcoholic and being obese.
TIP: Volunteer, join a group, plan activities in advance with friends and family.
If you are near retirement you might want to re-think that. People who continuously get mental stimulation build their brains up faster and keep them built up.
TIP: If you are retired, consider going back to work again, but this time doing something that you have always wanted to do. Not only will you be stimulating yourself mentally, you will also build that social network that is so important for brain health too.
7/ Improve your blood pressure
High blood pressure in your midlife increases your risk of cognitive decline in your later years.
TIP: Use medication, if prescribed, as well as lifestyle changes such as controlling your weight, your stress, getting plenty of exercise and eating right.
8/ Eat better
You are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, easy or fake.
TIP: Eat foods on a daily basis that are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals.
9/ Improve your blood sugars
Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and other types of dementia because cardiovascular problems associated with diabetes are also associated with dementia.
TIP: Eat a healthy diet rich in vitamin D, folate, B6 and B12 vitamins, as well as exercise regularly.
Workouts can also balance your blood sugar levels.