Exercising your brain is probably the last thing on your to-do list, but it is more important and easier than you think. Did you know that in healthy individuals, the brain begins to age during puberty and cognitive decline starts in the 20s and 30s? Luckily, there are many things you can do to maintain or improve your cognitive function as you get older, says Freda Wall, PA-C, a clinical coordinator at Piedmont Brain Tumor Center.
Exercise your body and mind
Research shows that people who do brain exercises or challenging activities may reduce their risk or delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“The more we think, the better our brains function,” says Wall.
Challenge your brain with any of the following activities:
- Learn a new language.
- Learn to play a new musical instrument.
- Do crossword puzzles, Sudoku or other word or number games.
- Play board games.
- Try online brain teasers or memory games.
- Get regular exercise. Physical activity enhances the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus.
- Take an alternate route to work or while running errands.
- Volunteer with a new organization.
- Read a book from a different genre than you normally choose.
- Socialize with family and friends.
- Use your non-dominant hand for every day activities. For example, if you’re right-handed, try brushing your teeth or eating with your left hand.
Eating a healthy diet comprised mostly of whole foods can improve brain health.
“Whole, unprocessed foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds as well as lean poultry, lean meat and fish,” says Wall. “Basically, any food that hasn’t been altered from its natural state is a whole food.”
In addition to eating whole foods, watch your salt intake. A Canadian study found that participants who had lower sodium intake had better cognitive performance than those with moderate to high sodium intake.
These tactics not only support good brain function, they also promote overall wellness. A healthy diet, regular exercise and engagement in social or intellectual activities are the keys to a healthy mind and body for life.
For more information on brain health, visit Piedmont’s neurology services page.