To help ward off dementia, train your brain! “More and more research is suggesting that lifestyle is very important to your brain’s health,” says Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist and adjunct associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “If you want to live a long, healthy life, then many of us need to start as early as we can.”
So what can we do to ward off dementia?
20 tips that may help…
1. Join clubs or organizations that need volunteers.
Having a sense of belonging helps you avoid feelings of being lost or unneeded.
2. Develop a new hobby or two.
Hobbies can help you develop a robust brain because you are trying something new.
3. Practice writing with your non-dominant hand several times a day.
This helps exercise the opposite side of your brain and fires up your neurons.
4. Take dance lessons.
In a study of nearly 500 people, dancing was the only physical activity associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Need a hobby? …start gardening.
Gardening can reduce stress. And, gardeners use their brains to plan the garden using visual and spatial reasoning to lay out the garden.
6. Buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day.
Walking daily can reduce the risk of dementia because cardio vascular health is important to maintain blood flow to the brain. “If it’s good for the heart, then it’s good for the brain!”
7. Read and write daily.
Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas that process and store information. Especially beneficial is reading out loud! Likewise, writing (not copying) stimulates many areas of the brain as well.
8. Start knitting.
Using both hands works both sides of your brain. And, it’s a stress reducer.
9. Learn a new language.
Whether it’s a foreign language or sign language, you are working your brain by making it go back and forth between one language and the other. Research has been found that being bi-lingual seemed to delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for four years.
10. Play board games such as Scrabble or Monopoly.
Not only are you taxing your brain, you’re socializing, too.
11. Take classes throughout your lifetime.
Learning produces structural and chemical changes in the brain, and education appears to help people live longer. Brain researchers have found that people with advanced degrees live longer.
12. Listen to classical music.
A growing volume of research suggests that music may hardwire the brain, building links between the two hemispheres. Any kind of music may work, but there’s some research that shows positive effects for classical music.
13. Learn a musical instrument.
It may be harder than it was when you were a kid, but you’ll be developing a dormant part of your brain.
14. Travel.
When you travel (whether it’s a distant vacation spot or a different route across town), you’re forcing your brain to navigate a new and complex environment.
15. Pray.
Daily prayer appears to help your immune system. Give thanks and appreciation or gratitude.
16. Learn to meditate.
It’s important for your brain to learn to shut out the stresses of everyday life.
17. Get enough sleep.
Eight hours is still the recommendation. Studies have shown a link between interrupted sleep and dementia.
18. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables mop up some of the damage caused by free radicals, one of the leading killers of brain cells.
19. Eat more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon, sardines, tuna, ocean trout, mackeral, herring, and walnuts (which are higher in omega-3s than salmon) and flaxseeds. Flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and cod liver oil are good sources, too.
20. Eat at least one meal a day with family and friends.
You’ll slow down eating, you’ll socialize and research shows you’ll eat healthier food than if you eat alone or on the go.