13 Lifestyle Tips to Protect Brain Health
The blog posts Colour and Cognitive Decline and Eat to Protect Brain Health include ideas about the kind of foods and diets to eat to protect brain function as you age. However, while what we eat is undeniably important it’s not the whole picture. How we live on a day to day basis makes a huge difference to brain health in the short and long term.
1. Relax – stress is an anti-nutrient that has negative effects on all aspects of physical and mental health. Integrate relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, guided visualisations and breathing exercises into your daily routine.
2. Get Physical – exercise is a stress reliever, which in itself is good for brain health. It also increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and reduces inflammation.
3. Challenge the brain – put your brain to work by learning new skills and reading challenging books or blogs. It’s a case of use it or lose it when it comes to brain function so learn an instrument, a language or an art or craft.
4. Enjoy yourself – feelings of joy, happiness and contentment are beneficial to brain health.
5. Socialise – being alone is not good for brain health. Spend time with people or at least talk to friends and family on zoom or by phone.
6. Meditate – regular meditation increases the volume and function of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain involved in memory.
7. Sleep – poor sleep reduces cognitive function in the short and long term. Switch off gadgets and screens 2 hours before bed, go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day, and sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.
8. Quit smoking – giving up smoking is one of the most important things anyone who smokes can do for their health. It’s not easy but there is help out there so talk to your GP about what is available and support those you know to stop smoking
9. Avoid centrally acting medications – centrally acting medications refer to those that work on receptors in the brain. They include sleep medications, pain killers, and antidepressants. Chronic use can contribute to cognitive impairment. If you routinely take these medications talk to your doctor about alternatives.
10. Manage your blood pressure – aim to maintain systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or less.
11. Protect your ears – avoid high noise levels and use hearing aids when needed.
12. Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand tobacco smoke.
13. Prevent head injury – wear a helmet for risky activities.