93% of Americans say brain health is vitally important to them but aren’t sure what they can do to support their own brain health. Research has shown that lifestyle behaviors can have a big impact on your brain health. Indeed, Staying Sharp, powered by AARP, has identified five pillars of brain health: Move, Discover, Relax, Nourish, and Connect. Explore them here.
No surprises here – you’ve been hearing for years that movement and exercise can increase your brainpower by helping to grow, repair, and maintain brain cells. But did you know that according to Owen Carmichael, associate professor and director of biomedical imaging at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, exercise can make you more productive and more alert throughout the day.
A 2014 study from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Texas tells us that trying new things, like quiliting, or even learning a new piece of software, or a new language can strengthen our brains. Yes, learning a new language will get your neurons firing, but so will seeing a 3-D movie, joining a new club, or even using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth.
A lot of us think of relaxing as a physical thing, but your brain needs to chill out, too. A 2014 study published in Molecular Psychology showed that poor sleep can lead to impaired memory and that chronic stress can affect the ability to learn and adapt to new situations. A professor at MIT has said even something as commonplace (and stressful) as multitasking can slow down your thinking. If you’re stressed out, consider learning ways to reduce anxiety. Yoga, meditation, or a walk around the block all can help you get a good night’s rest.
Eating well is more important than ever now that we know our diet can affect our brain health. According to a survey of over 6,000 health professionals, diets high in saturated fat (like beef and cheese) may lead to memory and cognitive decline, but brain healthy ones, such as the Mediterranean diet, high in monounsaturated fats (like olive oil and avocados) may protect the brain against disease.
A 2015 study tells us that seeing a movie or playing a round of golf with friends does more than just kill time – having a diverse social network can improve your brain’s plasticity and help preserve your cognitive abilities. Interacting with friends not only helps reduce stress and boosts your immune system, it can also decrease your risk of dementia. Consider starting a weekly game night or learning which volunteer opportunities best support good brain health.
Ready to Take Control?
Are you ready to take control of your brain health? Staying Sharp’s personalized assessment of your brain health can help. Along with your baseline score, you’ll also receive suggested activities and information tailored to your needs from all five pillars of brain health to help you on your way to a stronger and healthier brain. Take action!