Regardless of age, we all have ‘senior’ moments. Sometimes we forget things, like where we put our keys, what we were just talking about or even where we put an item that we were just holding.

While it might be funny when we’re younger, the older we get, the more we worry that it might signal early signs of dementia. 

You might not be able to completely stop the changes that occur in your brain as you age; however, there are some activities you can practice to keep your mind sharp.

Get Exercise

It’s never too late to get in shape. Exercise is not only good for the body, it’s also good for the brain. Getting your heart pumping helps reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, which is linked to the development of dementia. 

A good workout also helps improve blood flow, which, in turn, means more oxygenated blood traveling to your brain. The more free oxygen your brain has, the better it functions.

You don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. In fact, a brisk 30-minute walk is one of the best things you can do for your body and brain.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just walking either. Pump some iron to keep your muscles strong and if you need low-impact cardio, try swimming or biking to really get your heart pumping.

Eat Right

We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat,” and that’s true no matter your age. The foods you eat affect the rest of your body – from your skin to your weight to even your brain function.

A healthy diet is one rich in fruit and vegetables with less of a focus on red meat. The best food items to add to your diet include:

Oily Fish

Salmon, mackerel and sardines are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help increase blood flow to the brain. If you’re vegan, you can get omega-3 from soybeans, nuts and flaxseeds.

Dark Chocolate

You don’t have to give up chocolate completely for a healthy lifestyle. In fact, eating 70% dark chocolate can actually help improve brain plasticity and potentially reverse memory problems thanks to the flavonoids present in its high cacao formula.

Dark Berries

Similar to chocolate, dark colored berries are high in flavonoids as well as other antioxidants that can help improve communication between brain cells, increase plasticity and reduce or slow the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. 

Dark Green Vegetables

Many green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, etc. are high in vitamin K, folate and beta carotene which can help slow cognitive decline.

Try Something New

It might be harder to learn new things as you get older, but it’s not impossible. And it’s actually one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp. Challenge yourself to try to learn one new skill, whether that means adopting new technologies, learning a new language or jumping into a new hobby.

The more you keep your mind active, the better your chances of delaying cognitive changes as you age. Remember, your brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Like exercise, you want to start slow. Get started with easier tasks and then work your way up as you become more skilled in the novice tasks. You can even limit the amount of time you spend on new activities to a couple hours, at least in the beginning.

The key is consistency. Set aside some time every day to the new skill, and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ve made after a month. And if you decide you don’t like it after a few months, move on to something else!

Socialize

It’s almost too easy to stay cooped up in your house and not actually socialize with people for days or weeks. Social interaction is important for people of all ages, but especially older people, who tend to be at more risk of isolation and loneliness due to a shrinking social circle and decreased mobility.

You don’t have to attend parties or hang out at a club to get social interaction. In fact, there are plenty of activities available to you that you can check out. In many towns, there are even events specifically geared towards seniors.

Besides being great for your emotional health, research suggests people with high social engagement tend to be at lower risks of developing dementia over people with low social engagement.

Why is this? Your brain needs to make more connections as you have to remember people’s names and keep track of the flow of conversation.

Follow a Healthy Lifestyle

In addition to eating right and exercising, you also need to make sure you follow a healthy lifestyle overall. That means:

  • No smoking;
  • Limiting your alcoholic drinks to a maximum of one a day. Less is better though!
  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep a day;
  • Maintaining a healthy weight;
  • Taking time to relax. Practice mindfulness, meditation or even yoga to reduce stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, makes it harder to retrieve memory from your brain. So, the less stressed you are, the better your memory.

How are you keeping your brain healthy and active? Do you practice any activities to fight early onset of dementia? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Let’s continue the discussion in the comments below!

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