Like any muscle in the body, when not exercised regularly the brain can become weaker and less able to perform in the way that it used to. Unfortunately, as we age certain parts of the brain naturally start to shrink, especially those important for learning and mental activities, meaning it may not perform in the way that it used to. Everyone’s brain declines at a different speed but genetics, neurotransmitters, lifestyle experience and some conditions can make it happen faster. There is no way of stopping it happening, but there are things we can do to keep our brains active for longer.
So, what are the top tips for keeping our brains active as we age?
Most of us will have already heard of the benefits of exercising to improve our physical health but did you know that keeping your body physically active can help keep your brain mentally active for up to ten years longer? Research by the Alzheimer’s Society has shown that keeping physically active can even reduce dementia by up to 30%.
So, how much exercise is recommended? This all depends on your physical ability and how much you are able to do. The recommendation is for 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a few times per week, but this is not always achievable for everyone. A simple walk, gardening or cleaning when done regularly can all add up to increase your exercise levels and help keep your brain active. For those less able, washing up and cooking can also been beneficial to keeping the brain active in older age.
One of the main things we can all do to keep our brain active is to use it as much as we can. Puzzles, word searches and reading are all great ways to keep our brain active, and, like any muscle in the body, the more we use it the stronger it can be.
Research in America has shown that by doing a simple crossword every day those with mild memory problems can improve their cognition and experience less brain shrinkage. Doing something with others, such as a class or a new hobby, can also be a fun way of learning something new and keeping the brain active whilst socialising with friends or family – or even meeting new ones.
Listening to music can be emotive for many reasons, but it can also jog memories we may have long forgotten. Where you were when you first heard a piece of music, or when you danced with a loved one to a song, these memories can be something we treasure at any age. As we age our brain starts to remember less, and music can bring those memories back.
How about learning an instrument? This can not only exercise your brain, but research in Canada has found that playing an instrument changes brain waves in a way that can improve listening and hearing skills too.
At Home Instead we know the importance of music and host ‘Singing for the Brain’, in association with the Alzheimer’s Society. These classes bring those affected by dementia together in friendly session to sing well known songs to stimulate memory.
Many reports and news articles have been published on the effects loneliness has on the brain at any age. From telephone conversations to meeting up with friends and family, keeping socially active is extremely important for brain function and mental health. Try to make social plans on a regular basis to meet up with others. If you do not have close family and friends near, why not join a club or choose to have a regular social visit from a registered provider. It doesn’t have to be a large social event, simply having a cuppa and a biscuit looking over photos, playing cards or listening to music all contribute to active brain function. Lots of regular activities aimed at older adults are included in our WOW guide – why not pick one up from your local Home Instead office?
And finally, don’t forget to look after yourself with good food and a restful nights sleep. It doesn’t have to be gourmet to keep you well, that would be too much every day, but a healthy meal with a balanced diet goes a long way to keeping you physically and mentally fit for longer.
Sleep is our body’s way or recovering from the day and allowing our brains to rest. Without being fully rested the brain cannot focus or concentrate at its full capacity. As our brains age, they need to continue to have good levels of sleep in order to keep them as active and able as is possible.
When combined all of these top tips can help you keep your brain active for longer. Some things many help more than others and it is important that you do what works best for you and any health conditions you may have.
To find out more about how to keep the brain active and how the team at Home Instead can help with all the top tips in this guide contact the team on 01745 772150.