Five Tips for Maintaining Brain Health

Health & Wellness
senior resident and caregiver go walking outdoors

Posted: October 21, 2021

By: Patrick Shelton, Wellness Coach at Holly Creek

Keeping our cognitive abilities healthy is vital to maintaining autonomy and independence. There are many ways in which we can maintain, enhance, and even change our brain health. The truth of the matter is our brains are very malleable and respond to many types of positive stimulation. Every time we attempt to learn something new, our brains create new neural pathways. We call this neuroplasticity, and anyone at any age can experience this. All one has to do is challenge themselves in any, and hopefully all of the following ways.

Tips for a Healthy Brain

  • Exercise. The brain benefits of exercise include; increased production of neurochemicals that promote brain cell repair, improved memory, increased attention span, improved executive function, creates growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels, and improved dual tasking skills. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. That means 21 minutes per day. You can break that down to two 10-minute sessions per day. When you break it down into manageable portions, it is rather easy to find time to exercise.
  • Nutrition. You are what you eat. If you eat healthier foods, your body and brain will perform better and for longer periods of time. The heart and brain both get the nutrients they need to remain healthy. On the other hand, it is known that smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol, and the consumption of processed foods will slowly destroy vital organs, create obesity, compromise the immune system which leads to disease, and lead to a lower quality of life, especially as we age. A good question to ask yourself is: “What percentage of my daily food and beverage intake is considered healthy?” Your answer might surprise you.
  • Relaxation. A tired brain leads to extra stress on the brain. This extra stress can lead to cognition changes. Your brain needs to rest every day in order to avoid the consistent stress. There are many ways to de-stress. Sleep is the main and best method. Most doctors will recommend eight hours of sleep. Those eight hours can all come at one time or occur as two four-hour sessions. They key is that the sleeping hours are restful. Also, find time during the day to de-stress. Just fifteen minutes of quiet solitude, meditation, or spending time in a relaxing environment will work wonders.
  • Social Interaction. Social interaction is a great way to keep your brain functioning at a high level. It takes a lot of brain power to have a conversation. Your brain needs to listen, process information, and respond via languages at a very high level. Whether it is a one to one interaction or group situation, there is a lot of brain stimulation taking place during social situations. The more we socialize, the more we learn, about ourselves, about others, about places, and things. Socialization creates memories, and the more you socialize, the stronger those memories become. Meeting new people from different cultures broadens your knowledge and once again as discussed previously creates new neural pathways in your brain. Take time every day to socialize. Meet a friend for coffee, have dinner with family, join a book club, etc.  The reward your brain receives when you are with other people is extraordinary.
  • Cognitive Stimulation. Your brain must have stimulation in order for it to function. PET scans of the brain show neural activity when the brain takes on a new challenge. When that challenge occurs, the brain grows and becomes stronger. Neurons fire more rapidly, processes take less time, and decisions are made faster. The more novel your challenges are, the harder the brain has to work. And this is when the most development takes place. Once you have learned something, it is stored in your memory and is ready for retrieval.Keep learning new things. Learn a new language, how to play a new musical instrument, do different types of puzzles, play memory games, learn how to use your smart device, learn how to cook, learn photography, or how to quilt or cross stitch. The idea is to keep learning, and keep challenging your brain. You might not solve the puzzle or be great at that new language, but your brain will always be receiving stimulation and that is the goal.
  • Extra Tip: Find a Purpose. Do something that gives you a reason to get out of bed each day. When you have a purpose, your motivation for incorporating the previous five tips into your daily life gets stronger. Having a purpose will also create curiosity and discovery, and you brain will love that.

At Holly Creek, we help our resident’s live life to the fullest and provide them with the resources they need to nurture their mind, body, and spirit.

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