I have always said that I wanted to look 10 years younger, which sounds a little vain, but in truth, I want to be able to live an active, healthy life in my later years. As the years are advancing quicker than ever this seems even more true. The one thing I have noticed about those who appear to have been blessed with eternal youth, is their active minds, many interests and the fact that they are very much still engaged with the world around them. Continuing to travel, exercise, write, dance and create well into their 70’s, 80’s even 90’s. So rather than wanting to just look 10 years younger I need my brain and body to remain younger too.
From 30 years of age our brains start shrinking and from the age of 40 continues to lose a further 5% every decade. Terrible news indeed, however, there is some good news. Advances in scientific research has shown that there are steps that can be taken to slow down the aging process and even grow new brain cells. This is called Neurogenesis. To learn more about this read 100 Days to a New Brain by Dr Sabina Brennan. Now I am going to definitely buy a copy of this book but there are also 10 tips to help keep your intellect sharp as the years move on.
- Follow the Mediterranean diet
- Keep brain hydrated
- Reduce risk factors for high blood pressure
- Prioritise sleep
- Challenge yourself
- Manage stress
- Say yes to life-long learning
- Stand more
I don’t think there were two many surprises in this list: drinking plenty of water is still the biggest health tip, delivering key nutrients to the brain and removing toxins. Having spent time living in Spain, I am already a fan of the Mediterranean diet and seeing how healthy people are there in later life in contrast to the UK, a major factor been their diet this is even more motivating. I have been successfully daydreaming since childhood, so its great to see that there are some advantages to one of my key skills, your brain is more activate whilst daydreaming that when focused on a task. (Now they don’t tell you that in school) Been social can be through family, friends or even volunteering. I would add to this not spending too much time alone in later years is important. The research shows that social support has a positive impact on our cognitive function. Mixing with children and a younger generation is vital to keep your brain and body on its toes still! Once again In Mediterranean family’s grandparents and older relations do play a large role in their families. Your heart works like a pump, using pressure to push blood through the arteries around the body and brain. So, it is vital to keep your blood pressure in the range of 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmhg. A diet too high in salt, smoking, drinking and an inactive lifestyle will often raise blood pressure. Poor sleep can harm the brain. When your brain is deprived of sleep, the active process of your brains waste clearance system may not have sufficient time to give your brain a deep clean. A build up of waste products from cells has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Having a good night’s sleep is also stress relieving and having high levels of stress inhibits learning and impairs memory. Staying challenged and continuing to learn are very important. I am a great believer in Life-long learning, word quizzes, learning a new language or even taking a night class (helping to stay social) or an online course will all help bring about improvements in your brain health. There are lots of free online course and often reductions for older citizens on night classes. And finally, stand more, I found this one surprising but our brains perform better when standing so trying to not sit down for long periods of time and stand when possible.
So overall, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, drinking water, daydreaming, staying social, sleeping well, manging stress, standing more, continuing to learn and challenge myself will help me keep my brain active for many years to come. All this is quite easy to follow and I know anything I do now will make a difference to my life quality in 20 years’ time.
My parents still do a daily crossword, which if done regularly can slow down the decline in mermory and decrease the risk of dementia.
My lively 94 year old neighbour plays bridge in a club, so is out most nights and this has I think helped her to stay alert and youthful. During the lockdown my family do a weekly quiz on Zoom and this has been a great way to keep using the grey matter. I now have a good excuse to play solitaire on my computer when I should be working but that’s a different blog post!