There are many ways we can keep our body healthy but how do we keep our brains healthy?  The brain is one of our vital organs and there are many things we can do to strengthen it and help prevent the effects of cognitive decline and disease.

Recent scientific research shows that efforts made to keep our hearts healthy can also have the added benefit of keeping our brains fit and healthy.  In other words, the factors that can cause heart disease such as high cholesterol, lack of regular physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and high blood pressure can also cause degeneration of the brain.

Advancing age does not always have to lead to a sharp decline in mental functioning.  We all know people who are in their 80’s (and older) who are very sharp mentally. The brain does not remain stagnant thoughout one’s life – it can in fact learn to adapt to new experiences.

Results from a 2014 clinical trial of older adults at risk of brain impairment showed that implementing a combination of lifestyle choices such as increased physical activity, adopting a heart healthy diet, challenging the brain with new mental activities and being more socially engaged, lead to a decrease in cognitive decline.

So what can we do to improve the health of our brains? Well firstly it is important to understand that it is never to late or indeed even too early to start a new plan of action and engage in changes to our lifestyle that may reap positive benefits for us as we advance in age.

Stay physically active

Any kind of cardiovascular exercise that causes a rise in our heart rate, pumping oxygen through our whole body may be linked with improving our chances of preventing the onset of conditions such as dementia.  Any exercise such as walking, running as long as it is aerobic are effective.  It is advised to exercise for 30-45 minutes at a time and to do so at least three times a week.

Stay socially active

Being socially active and maintaining regular engagement with our family and friends may reduce our risk of deterioration in mental ability and it has also been shown to help in the battle against depression.  When these social activities are combined with physical activity, the effect can be even more beneficial like going to a dance class with a friend or an organised walk.

Adopt a healthy diet

Eating a heart healthy diet has been associated with both physical as well as cognitive health – a diet which promotes a greater intake of fruit and vegetables while lowering the consumption of fat.  Nuts, grains, healthier fats like olive oil, a lower intake of salt and red meat and regular portions of poultry and fish. There are a few products in the pharmacy that help with brain function in particular those rich in omega 3,6 and 9.  Mastermind developed by revive active is particularly good for helping brain function both for older people and students sitting exams.

Stay mentally active

Challenging your brain is perceived by experts on the field of aging and cognitive development as another way of benefiting your brain function.  Learning a new skill where your mind has to work moderately hard facilitates mental stimulation and can help in delaying the mental aging process.  It is also important to get adequate sleep and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.

While research is ongoing and it is difficult to prove the results of studies on brain health conclusively.  It is safe to say that a strong association exists between certain lifestyle choices and cognitive health.  In other words there are simple steps we can all take, no matter what age, to build up our brain reserve.  So let’s give our grey matter the respect it deserves, for all the work it does for us.