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5 Steps to a Healthier Brain

October 10, 2019

Everyone knows that regular exercise and a healthy diet improve the health of your body. But what can you do to improve the health of your brain?

Every day, more and more people in our region are affected by dementia. Odds are, it will touch the life of a friend, a family member, or perhaps even you. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association states that every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Now, the good news: it’s not inevitable. Here are a few simple steps you can take to help protect your brain health and limit cognitive decline as you get older…

Brain Health Protector #1:  Exercise Regularly 

Wait a second…didn’t we just talk about this as a way to protect your physical health? Well, yes, but it’s just as beneficial for your brain!

Physical activity has been shown to help maintain brain health over time. That’s because exercising regularly increases the number of blood vessels bringing oxygen and blood to the brain—and also helps promote the growth of new nerve cells.

Beyond those benefits, physical activity will help you maintain healthy levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. This is beneficial to your cognitive health since high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are risk factors for dementia.

Brain Health Protector #2: Exercise Your Mind, Too
It’s not enough just to exercise your body, though. When it comes to protecting your brain health, you’ll also want to keep your mind in good shape. 

How can you do that? Well, essentially, regularly perform activities that challenge your brain in new and different ways.

That may mean playing word games or solving puzzles—or you might want to take up a new hobby or learn a new language. Even something as simple as trying to perform normal activities with your non-dominant hand can help.

Brain Health Protector #3: Stay Socially Active
That’s right, just spending time with your family and friends can help protect your brain health! 

Realistically, being social is important at every age. But it’s especially important for older adults. In fact, social isolation and loneliness have been shown to negatively impact your health as much as some medical conditions.

All told, staying social has numerous health benefits, including reducing your risk of developing dementia and even potentially extending your life! 

Brain Health Protector #4: Stop Smoking
What does smoking have to do with the brain? A lot, actually. Smoking has been shown to “thin out” parts of the brain and can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia. 

On the positive side, quitting smoking can make an immediate impact—returning your risk of cognitive decline back to normal relatively quickly.

Brain Health Protector #5: Get Plenty of Quality Sleep
Sleep—getting enough of it benefits our bodies in so many ways, while not getting enough can definitely hurt us.

That’s absolutely true when it comes to the brain, which needs time to rest and restore, like all other parts of the body. Not getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, particularly due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea, can diminish brain health, contributing to memory and thinking issues.

Aim for a solid seven to nine hours of sleep each night as an adult for optimal health.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, West Tennessee Healthcare offers a full team of neurology specialists trained to offer comprehensive support for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.