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Self-care: Boost Your Brain Health

Beth Hess - Tuesday, October 17, 2017
It was long thought that brain development occurred only during childhood. Today we know that this is far from true. New neural pathways continue to develop based on our experiences. We can rewire our brains at any age. Moreover, just as you can grow your biceps through exercise and diet, there are a multitude of ways that you can grow your brain. This sharpens thinking and can reduce or even prevent the cognitive decline that typically occurs with aging. 

Many of the things that promote good physical and mental health also boost brain health. Below is a list of the things you can do to grow and maintain a healthy brain.

  • Exercise – This is listed first because it is the single most important thing you can do. Physical exercise isn’t just good for your physical and mental health, it is also critical for brain health. Exercise fosters new brain cell growth and preserves existing brain cells. Briskly walk for 40 minutes, 4 days/week, or if you engage in more vigorous activity such as running or swimming, set 40 minutes, twice a week as a goal.
  • Diet – Experts recommend eating a “Mediterranean diet,” one rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives and nuts. This helps to maintain a healthy brain.
  • Meditation – Stress is bad for your brain. Meditation can help reduce stress and thereby promote brain health.
  • Brain exercises – Find an enjoyable activity that requires you to use your brain.  Sign up for a class or take up a new hobby. Do crossword puzzles or play games that require some thought. Then keep at it.
  • Maintain physical and mental health – Control your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels. When these are out of whack our brains suffer. Don’t smoke – it actually shrinks your brain. Depression too is bad for the brain, so make sure it is treated.
  • Socialize – Cultivate a social network of friends, neighbors and/or family members. Join community organizations or volunteer. Social connectedness boosts brain health.
There is now a large body of literature that shows that the risk of developing dementia can be greatly reduced. We can all start healthy brain habits now.

For additional tips and resources on brain health, check out BrainFutures on Facebook or Twitter.


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