8 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Brain
The prevalence of dementia and cognitive failure is rising at alarming rates around the globe. In 2016, 564,000 Canadians were living with dementia according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada; this number is projected to grow to 937,000 within 15 years. Modern research has demonstrated that brain function can continue to be strengthened throughout our lifespan (neurogenesis and neuroplasticity) and that, contrary to previous beliefs, adults retain the ability to improve cognitive ability through mid and late life. Dr. Vivien Brown, VP of Medical Affairs at Medisys Executive Health, outlines eight New Year’s resolutions that can positively influence the course of brain aging.
Did you know?
The physical brain changes of diseases causing cognitive decline might precede the onset of clinical signs and symptoms by decades! Want to help prevent or delay the onset of dementia and maximize your most vulnerable cognitive abilities? Try Dr. Brown’s 8 New Year’s resolutions for brain health:
1. Get more exercise
Aim for approximately 30 minutes of exercise, at least 4 times per week. Recent studies show that those who exercise regularly are less likely to get Alzheimer’s and dementia, have a reduced risk of stroke, and have significantly improved cognitive function. Exercise also increases brain volume in older adults and decreases the likelihood of experiencing even mild cognitive decline. In a randomized one-year controlled trial of 120 healthy, older sedentary adults, those who engaged in regular aerobic activity increased anterior hippocampal volume by 2% reversing age-related loss by one to two years!
2. Sleep better
Vow to get more restful sleep in 2017, at least 8 hours a night. Make restful sleep a priority in your life, establish a regular sleep schedule and set conditions to ensure deep REM sleep. To promote more restful sleep, avoid viewing brightly-lit electronic device screens before bed such as iPads, smartphones, and computers. Studies suggest that the bright blue light from displays at night negatively impacts our sleep, suppressing melatonin and causing our bodies to want to stay up as much as 90 minutes longer! http://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232.full.pdf
3. If you smoke, STOP SMOKING
Smoking is bad for your brain! According to research, smoking cigarettes damages memory, learning and reasoning (not to mention a host of other conditions caused by smoking: stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoporosis, and cancers of the lung, cervix, kidney, stomach, pancreas, bladder, esophagus, larynx and the mouth – to name a few).
4. Limit alcohol consumption
Sure, red wine can be good for your heart, but if you drink alcohol you should not be drinking more than 6-9 drinks per week; and NEVER more than 4 drinks in a 2 hour period! Excessive long-term drinking can result in neurological damage and neurodegenerative disease, and impaired mental processing. Other long term effects of excessive drinking include: hypertension, liver disease, heart disease, pancreatitis, damage to the central nervous system, and increased cancer risk including breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus.
5. Reduce stress
Make 2017 the year you put yourself first, make time for activities that help you reduce stress like exercise, yoga, long walks, quiet time, and meditation. Reducing your stress levels can decrease your rate of cellular aging, thus reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
6. Eat healthy
Avoid trans and saturated fats, get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids through food sources, and eat a variety of vegetables every day. Studies show that those who eat more vegetables experience less risk of cognitive decline. Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium and fish oil are believed to preserve and improve brain health.
7. Learn something new
Learn something new this year to keep your brain active! Take up a new hobby, learn a new language, engage in creative movement and dance, or enroll in a course on a subject that interests you. Practice memorization often and enjoy strategy games, puzzles and riddles — the more frequent and complex your cognitive activity, the less likely you are to develop Alzheimer’s.
8. Fill up your calendar with social activities that you enjoy
Friends, family and meaningful social engagements can help decrease stress, and slow your rate of cognitive aging. Social connectedness has been shown to increase your brain’s resilience to injury and it increases your overall quality of life.