You can improve your cognitive health with simple changes to your daily routine
Studies on memory loss and cognitive function have proven that the following lifestyle adjustments can have a significant impact in slowing down cognitive impairment and keeping your brain sharp, especially in older adults.
Elderly people who want to maintain optimal cognitive health should consider incorporating the following activities into their daily routine:
If you are looking to improve your cognitive health, consider playing brain-challenging games. These games, designed by neuroscientists, are proven to boost a range of cognitive functions. Just a couple of hours per week can help stave off mild cognitive impairment. The games often start out easy, but as you gain skills, they become increasingly challenging. There are also games that combine social engagement and physical and mental activity. For example, jigsaw puzzles and mazes can help boost your right hemisphere, which controls your visual skills. The right brain hemisphere also controls memory, reasoning, attention, and problem-solving.
The left-brain hemisphere controls comprehension, speech, and writing. Left-brain dominant people are often good at math and other problem-solving skills, whereas right-brain dominance is usually associated with artistic and musical creativity. Approximately 92% of people are left-hemisphere dominant.
Exercise is a powerful way to improve cognitive health. It increases your physical capabilities, improves your appearance, and can even change the way your brain works. According to Jeff Edwards, a professor of cell biology and physiology at BYU, exercise can improve your mental capacity in three important ways. In this video, he explains how exercise affects your mind and how it can improve your quality of life.
Research suggests that eating a diet rich in oily fish, berries, leafy green vegetables, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and whole grains is a healthy diet for your brain.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain development and function. Moreover, these fats can help protect your brain from other diseases such as heart disease and arthritis. Fatty fish can also improve your mood and protect your brain from cognitive decline.
Foods rich in iron, such as red meats, and foods high in vitamin Bs, such as squash and eggs are also beneficial to brain health. Dark chocolate, green tea, and coffee provide antioxidants that are particularly important for brain health. Last, but not least, be sure to eat plenty of citrus fruits. Studies show that sufficient levels of vitamin C are attributed to improved focus, attention, and memory.
Further, foods high in antioxidants fight off free radicals that damage brain cells and help combat conditions such as major depressive disorder, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid Too Much Alcohol
Research suggests that reducing alcohol intake boosted cognitive health in subjects who had been previously drinking a moderate to a high number of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis. However, that same study also shows that modest alcohol consumption may help to reduce the risk of dementia. The study looked at several participants from the Swedish Twin Registry, who were evaluated for their alcohol consumption through electronic health records. High alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of dementia, while low alcohol consumption was not associated with a higher risk. The excess risk of high alcohol consumption equates to about 10.5 drinks per week. Interestingly, moderate alcohol consumption (4 to 5 drinks weekly), including wine and spirits, was associated with a decreased risk of dementia.
The Swedish Twin Registry (STR), which today has developed into a unique resource, was established in the late 1950s to study the importance of smoking and alcohol consumption on cancer and cardiovascular diseases whilst controlling for genetic propensity to illness. Since that time, the Registry has been expanded and updated on several occasions, and the focus has similarly broadened to most common complex diseases.
Additional research shows that vitamin D is an effective way to improve cognitive health. It has been shown that higher levels of vitamin D can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, it has been shown to reduce the effects of chronic stress on cognitive functions. Vitamin D is absorbed by sunshine, so it is vital to get outside and enjoy some walking and fresh air every day, if possible. The only food source for vitamin D is fatty fish and pure cod liver oil. If you do opt for a vitamin D supplement instead, be sure to get additional magnesium, as vitamin D cannot be metabolized without sufficient magnesium levels.
Water (staying hydrated)
A new study suggests that increasing water consumption in the diet may improve cognitive health. Studies have shown that increasing water intake leads to increased arousal, emotional responses, and improved cognition. Researchers have also found that less than 1.2L of water per day is associated with poorer everyday functioning and impaired cognition. Drinking enough water is especially important for older people, who are at risk for cognitive decline. Better yet, add fresh lemon juice to every glass of water for many health benefits.
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