Every part of your body works together to provide you with life. Although no one system is more important than any other, some can have a bigger impact on how we experience life than others.
Our brain is especially important, as it’s the way we process the things that are happening around us, it’s what we use to store memories, and it’s what makes us who we are. Life can look scary, depressing, or difficult if we lose our ability to think.
That’s why it’s so important to care for your brain throughout your lifetime! Here are seven simple ways you can enjoy full cognitive function well into old age.
Protect Your Skull
Many of the items on this list have an indirect relationship with the health of your brain. Protecting your skull, in contrast, has a direct relationship with brain health.
Experiencing an injury that disrupts normal brain function can have lasting consequences. It can take away your ability to work, and it can leave you with lasting damage and difficulty functioning. That’s why you should protect your head in a variety of situations.
It includes wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bicycle or a motorcycle. It may also include considering very carefully whether or not you should participate in a full contact sport, like football. Protect your skull and you can protect what’s inside it.
Care for Your Heart
Your heart and brain are inextricably linked. That’s because your brain depends on blood flow to function properly. By caring for your heart, you in turn, are caring for your brain.
Medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can all impede blood flow to the brain, which can ultimately affect brain function. When a blood clot forms in an artery, it can cut off blood supply to the brain, causing temporary or permanent brain damage.
Work with your doctor to ensure your heart is healthy. It might mean quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol intake, or getting more exercise, but your brain will thank you.
Not getting enough sleep may seem like a minor inconvenience, but if you’re regularly getting less sleep than you should, or your quality of sleep is low, you could be doing lasting damage to your brain.
Sleep deprivation can cause forgetfulness, and it can make you more easily distracted. It also makes it hard for brain cells to communicate with each other, which can affect memory and visual perception.
Sleeping allows your brain to reset itself and heal. It can clear out toxins that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia, allowing you to preserve your memory well into old age.
Create a nighttime routine that works for you. It might include reading a book, taking a bath, or doing a light meditation to clear all the worries from your mind. It’s always a good idea to turn off all screens an hour before bed as well, so the blue light doesn’t affect your melatonin levels.
Eat a Diet Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A healthy diet is important to brain health, but it is an especially good idea to make sure your diet includes plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids.
DHA, which is abundant in omega-3 fatty acid, has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and enhance synaptic plasticity, which are both important to learning and memory.
A few foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acid and will feed your brain include:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
Make Memories With Friends and Family
Loneliness and isolation are common, especially among the elderly, but it can leave lasting changes in your brain. People who are socially isolated are more likely to have anxiety, depression, and thinking problems. Some studies have shown that it can even make nerve cells in the brain smaller.
Fostering authentic connections with friends, family, and neighbors is an easy way to combat the brain effects that come with isolation. Look for ways to make new memories by turning off the TV and going on vacation, catching lunch with a friend, or inviting a neighbor over for dinner. It will keep your brain active, you’ll feel less lonely, and you’ll maintain brain function.
Try New Things or Learn a New Skill
It’s easy to get into a routine, especially as we get older. There can be some comfort in doing the same things day-in and day-out, but it does nothing for your brain. It’s actually much better to try something new. It’s even better if you can learn a new skill.
Amazing things happen in your brain when you do something you’ve never done before. It flushes your brain with dopamine, which feels good, but it can also cause your brain to build new connections between areas where neurons have been lost over time. Being bored by doing the same things all day, every day has also been associated with heart disease and early death!
Stave off boredom and support brain health by taking a cooking class, learning an instrument, or learning how to change a tire.
Don’t Skimp on Self-Care
It’s easy to put yourself at the bottom of your to-do list, but that’s a mistake. Self-care has the ability to make you mentally and physically healthier by helping you deal with stress, which can have chronic and long-lasting effects on your brain. It also enables you to be a better friend, which enables you to maintain important social connections that foster brain health.
Make time to do things just for you each and every day that might include:
- Taking a hot bath
- Getting your hair or nails done
- Getting a massage
- Reading a book
Caring for your brain can seem confusing because many of the things you do on a daily basis affect brain functioning, and you don’t even know it. The tips on this list outline the ways you can take care of your brain so you can enjoy a higher quality of life, even as you enter old age.