How to Prevent Brain Decay

How to Prevent Brain Decay

As you progress through life, the intricate organ that governs your thoughts, memories, and actions—the brain—undergoes a series of changes. These changes, while natural, can impact cognitive function to varying degrees. While some degree of cognitive decline is considered a normal part of aging, it's important to distinguish between typical age-related changes and more concerning cognitive impairments. It's not uncommon for individuals to experience slight memory lapses or decreased processing speed as they age. However, these changes typically do not significantly interfere with daily functioning. On the other hand, severe cognitive impairments associated with conditions like Alzheimer's disease can significantly impact quality of life.

Part of the normal aging process can include physical changes to the brain. The brain may undergo shrinkage in certain regions, such as the frontal lobes and hippocampus, which are instrumental in higher cognitive functions and memory encoding. Additionally, cortical density may decrease, leading to slower cognitive processing. Furthermore, changes in neurotransmitter systems, including decreased dopamine and acetylcholine activity, can contribute to declining cognition. While these changes are part of the normal aging process, knowing how to improve your brain health can help you better navigate changing cognitive health as you grow older.

Expert Tips for Maintaining Brain Health

In 2021, the World Health Organization estimated that more that 55 million people are currently living with dementia, with that number rising to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050. However, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed. Try incorporating these tips into your life to help maintain cognitive health: 

Stay Socially Engaged

Maintaining social connections is crucial for cognitive health. Research indicates that people who engage in frequent social interactions tend to exhibit better cognitive function. Loneliness and social isolation have been linked to cognitive decline, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Engaging in group activities can not only support cognitive function but also promote overall mental well-being. Active social engagement challenges various cognitive processes, including attention and memory, thereby enhancing cognitive resilience against age-related declines. Try joining a study group, contributing your time to volunteer work within your community, establishing a consistent dinner schedule with friends or family, or inviting a neighbor to accompany you on your daily walks. 

Exercise Often

Regular physical activity is important for maintaining overall health and well-being, with benefits extending beyond physical fitness to encompass mental acuity and cognitive function. Engaging in regular exercise not only enhances mood but also serves as a powerful tool in bolstering memory. Studies have linked increased physical activity to slower cognitive decline and better motor abilities. Health professionals recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. This includes activities that increase your heart rate, such as brisk walking, dancing, or swimming. 

Medication Review

Certain medications have the potential to affect cognitive function. For example, high doses of benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for sleep disorders or anxiety, are notably associated with cognitive impairment. Additionally, medications used to manage pain, allergies, or bladder symptoms can also pose risks to cognitive health. Healthcare professionals are increasingly emphasizing the importance of medication reviews to identify and address potentially problematic drugs. Treatment approaches that were once considered standard may now be viewed as outdated or less safe, prompting a switch to newer, more cognition-friendly alternatives. 

Engage in Intellectual Activities

Participating in intellectually stimulating activities is essential for preserving cognitive abilities as you age. Choose hobbies that challenge your brain, such as solving puzzles, playing games, or reading. Activities like playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, or taking an online class can also help keep your mind sharp. Certain activities may even contribute to Alzheimer's disease and dementia prevention. These activities include word puzzles, math problems, artistic endeavors like drawing or painting, language learning, acquiring new skills or hobbies, enjoyable gaming, reading, part-time work, volunteering, and even simple tasks like making shopping lists. 

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for reducing the risk of chronic diseases that can affect cognition. Incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fish into your meals, along with smart portion sizes and adequate hydration, supports your overall well-being. It's important to limit the consumption of unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. Recent research indicates that individuals who adhere to a nutritious, well-rounded diet may have a lower risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline. For instance, the Mediterranean diet, which prioritizes fruits, fish, nuts, olive oil, plant-based proteins, and vegetables, has been associated with a decreased risk of dementia. The Mediterranean-style diet, renowned for its cardiovascular benefits and potential cancer protection, has shown promise in safeguarding against cognitive decline, including mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia progression, making it an excellent dietary choice for brain health. 

Prioritize Quality Sleep

Adequate and regular sleep is essential for various vital functions in our bodies, particularly those related to the brain. Poor sleep quality and duration have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive issues like memory loss and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, insufficient rest can contribute to the development of depression and anxiety. To promote better sleep and cognitive health, aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, consider implementing strategies such as avoiding late afternoon and evening naps, adhering to a consistent sleep schedule, maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment in your bedroom, engaging in relaxing activities like reading or listening to calming music before bedtime, and limiting screen exposure from devices like TVs, computers, and cell phones before going to sleep. For more tips on getting a good night's sleep, try one of these tips from our blog post. 

Try Multiple Activities

Integrating multiple lifestyle changes can yield the greatest impact on your brain health and cognitive function. While each activity individually contributes to overall well-being, their combined effects can be even more significant. For example, your day might involve engaging in intellectually stimulating activities like solving a crossword puzzle, followed by physical exercise such as riding a bike, then nourishing the brain with a good book from the library followed by a nutritious meal.

Further enhancing cognitive health could involve activities that combine learning and socialization, such as taking a cooking class in a language you're learning or participating in a dance class with friends. Ultimately, winding down the day with relaxing activities like listening to music or reading before bedtime contributes to a full night's sleep, which further supports brain function and overall health. Incorporating these activities into daily routines can lead to combined benefits for your cognitive well-being.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.