Keeping your brain active as you age is essential for cognitive ability and wellbeing.
Flexing your mental muscles is just as important as working your physical ones.
It can also reduce your risk of developing degenerative conditions such as dementia.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to keep your brain active on a daily basis.
Here’s a summary of what we will cover in this article:
- Memory loss happens as we age due to the physical degeneration of the brain – but there are practical solutions to boost brain health.
- Learning a new hobby or skill can boost brain activity and help reduce a natural decline in cognitive ability.
- Mindfulness activities such as meditation or Tai Chi are an excellent way to support mental health.
- Lifestyle factors are also important when it comes to keeping your brain active as you age.
The power of the brain
Getting older has an impact on our bodies and our brains.
When our brains age, we might experience degenerative symptoms like memory loss. We might be concerned about what are the early signs of dementia.
However, there are things we can do to improve our cognitive function and look after our brains.
Let’s take a look at the different factors to take into account when looking at how to keep your brain active as you age.
Why loneliness is bad for your health
Loneliness is one of the biggest issues impacting people in the UK, predominantly the older population.
If you don’t see family, friends or even share a chat with strangers when you are out in your community, you are likely to experience feelings of loneliness.
Though it is seen as a social factor, loneliness is incredibly detrimental to our mental health.
While we might consider mental health as an abstract concept that describes the emotional and chemical balances of our brain, this can have repercussions on our physical brain health.
There’s more useful information here on how to cope with loneliness.
Put your game face on
Who says that keeping your brain active has to be boring?
You could try some dementia puzzles or, a popular way to train your brain is by playing games, many of which can be found online using a PC, tablet or phone.
Brain games range from more traditional exercises such as sudoku or chess to the ever-evolving online world of games like tetris.
This type of exercise has become known as Brain Training. A number of studies into reducing the speed of cognitive decline with age report:
‘An increased performance in cognitive tasks such as speed and accuracy, visuo-motor coordination, attention, memory, working memory, and global cognitive function.’
This is positive news for brain training games being used as an effective tool to keep your brain active as you age.
However, more research into the area is needed to be conclusive about its impact.
Learn something new
While younger brains are better adapted to learning new things, such as a language or instrument, this is not to say that learning and using these skills are not beneficial for the older brain.
While you might find learning new skills a little more challenging than you remember, it is a brilliant way to keep your brain active as you age.
As you age, the brain experiences a process called demyelination (the degeneration of myelin or grey matter in your brain) which can lead to degenerative diseases.
Yet this process can be slowed down by actively increasing the myelin in your brain.
As you learn new skills, the myelin becomes denser and strengthens neural pathways to help you to continue to learn.
Enrol in an online course
If languages and instruments sound a bit too challenging, consider learning something new by enrolling on a course.
Here you could learn a new skill or craft or even take classes in a topic or subject you are interested in but never had the chance to study.
Whether online or in-person, courses can open up a fantastic range of opportunities, from new interests, skills, and sometimes new friends.
Not only will this keep your mind active, but it will also allow you to maintain a social connection with tutors, classmates and the course community.
Try using your non-dominant hand
Professor Lawrence Katz recommends using your non-dominant hand to strengthen your mind.
The challenging nature of switching from your dominant hand can be a great way to increase brain activity.
You can begin by trying to write or doddle using your non-dominant hand while you watch TV or listen to the radio.
There are so many benefits of using the ‘wrong hand’ for your brain.
Also, have a go at doing the same thing for your daily tasks, such as using keys, your phone or brushing your teeth.
In a clinical trial conducted in 2018, scientists studied how meditation and other mindful practices had an effect on cellular ageing.
They looked at blood markers which identified cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The results of the trial were positive – adults who meditated regularly significantly reduced the rate of cognitive decline.
In addition, they also improved other factors such as their sleep, mood and quality of life.
For more information on meditation for seniors, including how to do it, check out our Meditation for Seniors blog.
When we’re tired our brains are tired too and, therefore, fail to act in the way that we expect them to.
Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate properly which can lead to temporary lapses in cognition that affect memory and visual perception.
You should aim to have 6-8 hours of consecutive sleep a night. This allows the brain to rest and repair and consolidates your memories effectively, so you can use and enjoy them for longer.
Building good sleep habits
- Make sure your bed is comfortable and you don’t feel too hot or cold.
- Turn off all screens at least one hour before you close your eyes.
- Have a warm, soothing drink, such as camomile tea or Horlicks, before you go to bed.
- Try to eliminate disruptions like noise or light – earplugs, blackout blinds or sleep masks could help.
- Clear your mind and focus on breathing slowly to relax.
- Check out the sleep-scapes on apps such as Calm or Headspace to provide a relaxing backdrop.
- Go to your doctor if you have persistent sleep issues.
A Mediterranean diet is seen as a remedy for many ailments. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the diet is highly recommended to keep your brain healthy as you age.
With an emphasis on legumes, vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, such as olive oil, this diet incorporates much less red meat and salt than typical British diets.
Reduce cigarettes and alcohol intake
Scientists suggest that the use of tobacco and alcohol could increase neural damage in the brain, especially when used together.
Along with many other harmful health consequences, smoking tobacco causes chemical changes and inflammation in the brain which can speed up the process of cognitive decline.
Do more exercise
Regular physical activity is high on the list of solutions for many health conditions and is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
There are many benefits of exercise, not just for the body but for the brain too. So, regardless of your ability, or fitness level, physical activity should be prioritised in your schedule.
One study reported that cognitive decline is almost twice as common among adults who are inactive compared to those who are active.
This is because physical activity allows you to keep your brain active as you move. In turn, this helps you think, learn, and problem-solve, while feeling physically good too!
You could also try these morning stretches.
How to keep your brain active as you age
As you’ll see, there are a lot of different ways to improve brain health.
We hope our guide to how to keep your brain active as you age has given you plenty of ideas.
Remember, don’t be daunted but take small steps regularly.
Soon you’ll be building brainpower habits that will stand you in good stead.
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