Keep your brain sharp and stay free of dementia
Experts on brain health agree that there are proven ways to stay mentally sharp and cut the risk of cognitive decline as we get older. And regularly solving puzzles and brainteasers like this is one:
5 = 10
6 = 18
7 = 28
8 = 40
9 = ?
So I will post a brain teaser here once a week on a Friday. https://nutrishield.com/the-library/brain-teasers
Challenging your brain with puzzles and brain teasers is of course only one way to keep mentally sharp – although it’s certainly one that the Alzheimer’s Association agrees with.
Challenge your brain to think in new ways
Your brain evolved to be challenged. It needed to interpret the dangers and opportunities in your environment – indeed that is how we survived early in our evolution. But today, as we get older, we are mainly doing familiar things, so we pay less attention, we notice less detail, we are therefore less conscious and challenged.
This is an important cause of cognitive decline. So It is true that as we get older, our mental processing normally gets slower. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The solution is to deliberately put yourself in unfamiliar situations. To put back the challenge.
Hence the phrase Use it or Lose it. Challenging your brain with new activities that engage your attention will actually build new connections in the brain and indeed even new neurons. In turn new connections mean that you have increased your reserves of brain power. So any loss of brain cells has a less negative effect.
Scientists now talk of brain ‘plasticity’ – the fact that deterioration and ageing is actually reversible, given the right stimulus. Brain plasticity is the reason that stroke victims are able to regain speech or limb control again – the brain has been able to grow new connections to replace the non-functioning neurons and connections.
This sort of stimulus can include playing strategy games like chess and bridge. Taking up a new hobby like painting or woodwork. Learning to read music or learning a new language.
[So I can’t resist telling you that in another life I developed a new way of learning languages – see http://acceleratedlearning.com/ali/master-languages-fast/classic-languages-for-english-speakers/]
Here are 5 more ways to stay free of cognitive decline:
Take action on depression
There are several studies that link depression to long term mental decline – so take early advice from your doctor if depression strikes. There is good evidence that certain diets and nutrients can have a marked effect on mood and help alleviate depression. See Where are you on the happiness scale?
There is good evidence that socialising, participating in community activities, joining a choir or volunteering is an important way to stay brain healthy. It is after all challenging because you are in a new environment.
Keep the blood flowing
The risk factors for heart disease, stroke and brain deterioration are surprisingly similar. They include obesity and high blood pressure and atheroma – the accumulation of fatty deposits and scar tissue, which lead to restriction of the circulation.
Underlying these health threats is a common problem – called ‘chronic, sub-clinical inflammation’ that increases over the years. Indeed New Scientist recently confirmed that this type of internal unseen and unfelt (and therefore especially dangerous) inflammation is involved in:
“… muscle wasting and glaucoma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and arthritis, heart failure and high blood pressure, cancers, and lung, liver and kidney and skin disorders.”
The Mediterranean Diet is an effective anti-inflammatory diet and the most powerful anti-inflammatory supplements include Omega 3 fish oil, curcumin, green tea extract, grapeseed extract, CoQ10 and vitamins B6, folic acid, C, D3, E and K – as well as minerals like zinc and magnesium.
This is not a combination you will find in a simple one-a-day supplement, but only in specialist comprehensive supplements like NutriShield.
Get your heart rate up
Several studies have found a direct link between regular physical activity and improved learning and memory and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Regular cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body.
Get enough sleep
It’s true that lack of sleep leads to long term problems with memory and below par mental performance.
Combine nutrition, mental challenge, physical activity and social interaction
If you combine all these bits of advice – healthy nutrition, mental challenges, physical activities and social interactions, you have given yourself every chance of staying mentally sharp into ripe old age.
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Dr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.
1. Carl W. Cotman, Nicole C. Berchtold and Lori-Ann Christie, Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. TRENDS in Neurosciences Vol.30 No.9
2. Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2007 Oct; 3(5): 553–567.
3. Ybarra O, Burnstein E, Winkielman P, Keller MC, Manis M, Chan E, Rodriguez J. Mental exercising through simple socializing: social interaction promotes general cognitive functioning. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Feb;34(2):248-59. doi: 10.1177/0146167207310454.